Penalty drama sees Atletico through

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Published: Tuesday 17th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Atletico Madrid reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League following a 3-2 penalty shoot-out victory over Bayer Leverkusen after a 1-1 aggregate draw at the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday night.

Mario Suarez netted after 27 minutes to hand the hosts the lead on the night but with no other score to follow in normal time, the match went to extra-time and penalties thanks to the German side’s 1-0 first-leg lead.

And Stefan Kiessling missed Bayer’s decisive spot-kick as their opponents went through.

Mario Mandzukic started in place of Fernando Torres for the Spanish champions, with the on-loan AC Milan striker dropped to the bench as they aimed to turn things around following defeat in Germany.

The hosts had a half-chance early on before the Leverkusen defence made light work of it as Atleti pressed forward with a corner moments later, but Koke’s inswinging effort from the left was well cleared by Roberto Hilbert before visiting goalkeeper Bernd Leno kept out Koke’s next attempt.

Diego Simeone’s men won a free-kick after 15 minutes, taken by Koke 30 yards out. The Spain forward managed to lift the ball over the opposing wall of defenders but Leno had it under control as he coolly kept it out with an easy catch.

Down at the other end of the pitch, seconds later, Bayer could have taken the lead from a corner in their first real chance of the game but Mandzukic toe-poked Son Heung-min’s strong effort clear.

Midway through the first half, Atletico suffered a blow as goalkeeper Miguel Moya sustained what looked like a hamstring injury as he made a diving save and had to be replaced by 22-year-old Slovenian Jan Oblak.

The hosts finally got the reward for their early dominance after first winning the battle of the headers. Ruben Cani’s header finally came to ground and Suarez pounced on the ball just outside the 18-yard box and sent it past a diving Leno into the bottom corner – taking a deflection off Omer Toprak on the way in.

Mandzukic came close to doubling Atleti’s lead on the half-hour before Antoine Griezmann’s free-kick went straight into the wall minutes later, while Suarez fired a long-range effort wide and Cani’s header went over the crossbar as the home side searched for a second goal.

Meanwhile, Oblak did well to hold out a threatening chance from Bayer just before the break, diving forward at full-stretch to collect Josip Drmic’s goal-bound shot and deny an equaliser.

The home side came out with more determination as the second half got under way and tried to break down the visiting defence from the start, while Hakan Calhanoglu tested Oblak at the other end, with Bayer sending out a statement the tie was still wide open.

Leno did well to punch Koke’s corner clear just before the hour mark before Oblak was called into action again in the Atleti goal as he comfortably caught Karim Bellarabi’s long-range effort.

The hosts won a free-kick 35 yards out with just over 20 minutes remaining but Lars Bender managed to get his head onto Koke’s effort before Leno tipped it around his post.

Leverkusen started to push for a short spell but the home defence thwarted any of their half-chances to score before they became a real threat.

Leno was called into action after 80 minutes and he did well to keep out a powerful Turan shot, diving to defend his line in a moment of panic before Emir Spahic booted the ball to safety.

Both sides began to dig deep as they searched for a late winner with Kiessling firing over for the away side, while Simeone brought on Torres to give his troops some fresh firepower before the match went to extra-time.

Kiessling was first to threaten for the visitors but Oblak was well placed to keep him out, while Raul Garcia almost stole it for last year’s losing finalists but his long-range effort went wide.

With time running out, Simon Rolfes drilled a shot past the post while down at the other end of the pitch, Leno held out Torres’ header as penalties approached.

Garcia sent his effort over the bar for Atleti before Calhanoglu tapped his poor effort kick to Oblak.

The next three – by Griezmann, Rolfes and Suarez – were all fired into the top right corner as the hosts led 2-1 with Toprak’s effort going over before Leno saved Koke’s shot – with Gonzalo Castro finally levelling for Bayer.

Torres made no mistake as he struck the fifth spot-kick into the bottom corner as Kiessling’s miss handed Atletico the victory.

Published: Tuesday 17th March 2015 by The News Editor

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