It’s advantage Atletico Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals as a moment of Saul Niguez brilliance defeated Bayern Munich 1-0 on Wednesday.
Stefan Savic was preferred to Lucas Hernandez as Atleti took on Bayern without defensive lynchpin Diego Godin, while Thomas Muller was only a substitute for the Germans.
Unlike their quarter-final against Barcelona, when they looked to stifle the Catalans and hit them on the counterattack, Atleti were keen to take the initiative against Bayern early on as they pressed high up the pitch and did their best to suffocate Pep Guardiola’s men.
Indeed, Atleti took an early lead through Saul Niguez, who slalomed past a series of Bayern shirts through the inside-right, before working his way into the box and curling the ball past Manuel Neuer via the far post.
Bayern may have doubled the Madrid side in the number of completed passes and enjoyed two-thirds of possession, but they failed to create any clear-cut chances as Antoine Griezmann should’ve made it 2-0 when he was released in the box by a ball over the top but failed to beat Neuer at his near post.
Bayern were much improved in the second half and hit the woodwork through David Alaba’s piledriver after he had ventured far out of central defence, before Jan Oblak saved on the line to keep out Javi Martinez’s towering header.
Douglas Costa then latched onto a long ball from the right and tried to Oblak, but his volleyed effort lands on the roof of the Slovene’s net, but – an arrowing Arturo Vidal drive aside, also stopped by the goalkeeper – the Germans’ momentum slowed, prompting Pep Guardiola to bring on Franck Ribery and Muller for the final half-hour.
Yet the pair’s introduction struggled to spark Bayern back into life as Fernando Torres woke up from his slumber, having done everything right to peel off Alaba and sidestep him in the box, but his finish with the outside of his right boot cannoned off the far post.
The visitors did carve out two late opportunities through Medhi Benatia, who firstly looked to fling himself onto Ribery’s deep cross from the left, but he failed to make enough contact with the ball and Oblak saved, before Vidal snatched at a free shot on the edge of the box to leave Atleti in charge of the tie ahead of next week’s return leg.
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Bayern Munich
Atletico Madrid: Oblak; Juanfran, Gimenez, Savic, Filipe; Gabi, Augusto, Saul (Thomas 85), Koke; Griezmann, Torres
Bayern Munich: Neuer; Lahm, Martinez, Alaba, Bernat (Benatia 77); Vidal, Alonso, Thiago (Muller 70); Coman (Ribery 64), Lewandowski, Costa
Referee: Clattenburg [ENG]