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Simão spot kick rescues holders

Club Atlético de Madrid 1-1 Bayer 04 Leverkusen
A second-half penalty from Simão earned the UEFA Europa League holders a share of the Group B spoils.

Simão spot kick rescues holders
Simão spot kick rescues holders ©UEFA.com

Simão scored a second-half penalty as Club Atlético de Madrid continued their stuttering start to their UEFA Europa League defence with a 1-1 draw with Bayer 04 Leverkusen.

Having kicked off Group B with a 1-0 defeat by Aris Thessaloniki FC, the Spanish side were on course for more disappointment when Eren Derdiyok broke the deadlock before half-time. But the introduction of Fran Mérida helped invigorate the hosts, and six minutes after the restart the midfielder drew a foul from Sami Hyypiä to earn a spot kick. Simão duly converted, in off the post.

Atlético were unbeaten in 14 home matches in this competition and its predecessor, the UEFA Cup, but that run was under threat right from the start tonight. Derdiyok's free-kick from a central position had David de Gea scrambling across his goal as the ball zipped narrowly wide, while Sidney Sam raced forward before firing over the top.

With the hosts struggling to create an opening at one end, Jupp Heynckes's team finally forged ahead at the other. Tranquillo Barnetta's corner caused consternation in the home defence, allowing Hyypiä to nod the ball towards the far post where Filipe Luis directed against the upright. Derdiyok was on hand to smash in the rebound.

Quique Sánchez Flores made a double substitution at the break, Mérida and Tiago entering the fray. The former made an immediate impact, earning the penalty Simão dispatched with such aplomb and Los Rojiblancos were rejuvenated, pouring forward in search of the lead. René Adler unconvincingly tipped Tomáš Ujfaluši's menacing centre over while another cross found José Antonio Reyes, who headed wastefully wide.