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22.02.2017Champions League

Battling Werkself lose 4-2 against Atlético

The result was clearer than the play suggested. Nevertheless, the Werkself lose 4-2 to last year’s finalists Atlético Madrid in the Champions League Round of 16 – and miss the chance to be in a good position for the return match on 15 March.
© Bayer 04 Leverkusen Fussball GmbH

Roger Schmidt made two changes to the starting eleven that beat FC Augsburg 3-1 in the Bundesliga: The captain Lars Bender was ruled out with a muscular problem and he was replaced in defensive midfield by Charles Aránguiz. Also, Tin Jedvaj made way for Ömer Toprak who was suspended for the Augsburg match.

The Werkself displayed their regained confidence from the kick-off: Bayer 04 started against the team placed fourth in Spain's Primera Division in resolute fashion but failed to make a major impression on the visitors who were strong in defence. Atlético remained calm, sat back, played quickly on the break and succeeded in creating two good chances after 12 minutes. First, Bayer 04 keeper Bernd Leno pulled off a fine save to frustrate Antoine Griezmann from across by Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco. Luck was on the side of the Werkself shortly after that when Wendell turned a cross from the Atlético defender Felipe Luis onto his own bar.

Two goals conceded in eight minutes

In spite of all their efforts, the Werkself were unable to finish. That was not the case with the team coached by Diego Simeone who posed a constant threat on the break. On 17 minutes, Saúl Niguez broke down the right flank cut inside and curled a shot from the edge of the box towards the Werkself goal leaving Leno with no chance of making a save – Bayer 04 were 1-0 down. Aleksandar Dragovic failed to connect properly with the ball eight minutes later and the Werkself deficit was doubled. The finalists of 2014 and 2016 benefited from their quick strikers: Kevin Gameiro beat Toprak in a foot race, picked out Griezmann on the edge of the box and the Frenchman turned them ball into the net from close range to make it 2-0.

The Werkself almost hit straight back. First, Koke almost turned a diagonal ball from the lively Julian Brandt into his own net but the ball went just the wrong side of the upright. The ensuing corner saw the ball end up with Kevin Kampl who forced the visitors' keeper Miguel Angel Moya to make a brilliant save from curled shots from the edge of the box on 29 minutes. The next chance from a set piece again fell to the Slovenian but his volley went over the target.

Leno prevents 3-0

The match remained a lively affair with both sides refusing to give anything away. Another attack from Atlético saw Gameiro break through again and he passed to Griezmann in the centre of the box. Leno was able to make the save to keep his team in the game on 34 minutes.

There was another tricky situation just before the half-time whistle. The Atlético captain Gabi used his elbow in a challenge against Chicharito in the Madrid box and the Mexican was left on the deck. The Scottish referee William Collum chose not to award a penalty – a much disputed moment. The Werkself went into the break two goals down.

Bellarabi gives the Werkself hope

Just a few minutes after the restart the Werkself showed what they were made of. A good move in midfield saw Kampl lay the ball out to Benjamin Henrichs on the right and he picked out Bellarabi in the six-yard box. The Germany international reacted instantly to turn the ball into the far corner to make it 2-1 on 48 minutes. The goal inspired the Werkself as they pressed in search of an equaliser.

The Spaniards had a chance to restore their two-goal lead three minutes later. Gameiro only managed to hit the bar from close range allowing the Werkself to heave a collective sigh of relief. That made it even more annoying when Dragovic used his arms in a challenge with the livewire Gameiro on the right edge of the box. The referee Collum decided to award a penalty when he fell to the ground – another unlucky decision for the Werkself because the initial contact was outside the box. Gameiro picked himself up to take the penalty and he made no mistake as he slotted the ball past Leno to make it 3-1 for the club from the Spanish capital on 59 minutes

Werkself attacks go on rewarded

Even after conceding this goal, the Werkself once again displayed their great team spirit. Driven on by the fans at a sold-out BayArena, the Schmidt team pressed forward and succeeding in pulling a goal back on 68 minutes. The Werkself benefited from an own goal by Stefan Savic who turned a Brandt cross into his own net with his knee - 3-2 for the Madrid side.

What then followed was hard to beat in terms of tension and drama. The Werkself continued to put Atlético under pressure and even upped the tempo. The visitors had to work hard to resist the Werkself attacks. On 81 minutes, Savic and Filipe Luis saved on the line before Chicharito hit the ball over the bar. Against the run of play, Atlético increased their lead when the substitute Fernando Torres headed in a cross from Vrsaljko to make it 4-2.

More bad news for the Werkself: Following his third yellow card, Benjamin Henrichs will be suspended for the return match on 15 March. Bayer 04 are back in Bundesliga action on Saturday (15.30 CET) with a game against Mainz 05.

Match stats

Bayer 04: Leno – Henrichs, Dragovic, Toprak, Wendell – Aránguiz, Kampl – Bellarabi (Pohjanpalo 66’), Brandt (Brandt 87’) – Havertz (Volland 56.’), Chicharito

Atlético Madrid: Moyà – Vrsaljko, Savic, Giménez, Filipe Luis – Koke, Gabi, Saúl Niguez, Carrasco (Torres 78’) – Griezmann (Correa 78’), Gameiro (Partey 70’)

Goals: 0-1 Saúl Niguez (17’), 0-2 Griezmann (25’), 1-2 Bellarabi (48’), 1-3 Gameiro (59’ pen.), 2-3 Savic (o.g. 68’), 2-4 Torres (86’)

Booked: Henrichs (third yellow), Dragovic (second), Wendell (second), Aránguiz (first)– Torres, Gabi, Filipe Luis

Referee: William Collum (Scotland)

Attendance: 29,300 (capacity crowd)

© Bayer 04 Leverkusen Fussball GmbH

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