Leverkusen claim Atleti scalp

Atletico Madrid have a mountain to climb in the Champions League last 16 after falling 1-0 to Bayer Leverkusen during Wednesday’s first leg at BayArena.

Arda Turan took a blow to his right thigh during Los Colchoneros’ 3-0 victory over Almeria in La Liga at the weekend, leading to concerns that he may not have been fit enough for tonight, but he featured once more in what was an unchanged XI named by Diego Simeone.

Meanwhile for Leverkusen, they made three changes from the side which drew 2-2 at Augsburg last Saturday, with Roberto Hilbert, Josip Drmic and former Sevilla defender Emir Spahic all coming into the hosts’ fold for this last-16 first leg.

The Germans looked to adopt a counterattacking style and allow Atleti the ball, but it was a strategy which worked wonders as they carved out the game’s best chance from an unlikely source in Spahic, the veteran smashing the crossbar from 30 yards out.

Shortly before that, Mario Manduzkic had to clear a ball off the line from Wendell’s shot on the edge of the box, which threatened to bounce over a melee of statuesque Atleti defenders and ripple the back of the net.

For Atleti, meanwhile, Antoine Griezmann came closest for the visitors. A speculative half-volley was fired into the box but took a huge deflection, which Arda met and pulled back for the Frenchman to head home, but Bernd Leno scrambled back in the nick of time to punch the ball away.

Other than that, it was a forgettable first half for Simeone’s troops, with both Guilherme Siqueira and Saul Niguez forced off due to injuries.

The restart was more of an even affair, but it did not stop Leverkusen from netting the elusive winning goal, which came straight from the training ground. Karim Bellarabi rolled a deft backheel into the path of Calhanoglu, who smashed a finish into the roof of the net.

However, Atleti were to curse their luck further as substitute Fernando Torres saw a header controversially disallowed for offside, despite television replays showing him to be level, before Tiago was shown a second yellow card late on for a foolish challenge on Bellarabi.

Leverkusen 1-0 Atletico Madrid

Calhanoglu 57 (L), Tiago sent off 76 (A)

Leverkusen: Leno; Hilbert, Spahic, Papadopoulos, Wendell; Castro, Bender (Rolfes 68), Bellarabi, Calhanoglu (Brandt 87); Son, Drmic (Kiessling 80)

Atletico Madrid: Moya; Juanfran, Godin, Miranda, Siqueira (Gamez 38); Arda (Torres 64), Tiago, Gabi, Saul (Garcia 42); Griezmann, Mandzukic

Referee: Kralovec [CZE]

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