Bayer 04 coach Tayfun Korkut set off for Madrid with a weakened squad: In addition to the many absentees, he was forced to make two changes to the side that faced Werder Bremen in the 1-1 draw in the Bundesliga. Roberto Hilbert and Tin Jedvaj came into the back four in place of Benjamin Henrichs (suspended) and Ömer Toprak (ankle injury).
The Werkself appeared unconcerned about the less than positive situation and made a brave start to the game. On four minutes, Kevin Volland could have given the Werkself the lead – but his shot on the turn went wide of the target. Korkut's men continued to create chances. Chicharito put Julian Brandt through but he was unable to finish on 16 minutes. Shortly after that it was Chicharito who put the ball over the bar from ten yards out.
The counter-attacking side currently lying fourth in the Spanish Primera Division also created chances. Shortly before the Brandt opportunity, Hilbert was forced to block a shot from the Atlético striker Angel Correa. The Bayer 04 keeper Bernd Leno, playing with a protective mask due to his broken nose, prevented the Black and Reds going behind before the half-time break. First, he pulled off an impressive reflex save to turn a powerful shot from Correa round the post on 38 minutes; then he brilliantly saved a low drive from Koke on 40 minutes. The two teams went into the break with the score at 0-0.
Quadruple chance for the Werkself
The Werkself came out in the second half with the same determination but the hosts under coach Diego Simeone showed what they could do in a not quite sold out Estadio Vicente Stadium and they succeeded in putting Bayer 04 under increasing pressure. Atlético had chances thanks to their quick attacking players: Correa dribbled into the box but his shot was unable to find the far corner and a minute later Antoine Griezmann lobbed the ball just wide of the goal – that was the strongest phase for Atlético.
Just after the hour mark, the Werkself recovered control of the game and they had a quadruple chance on 68 minutes: First, Brandt beat two Atletico players but the keeper Oblak was able to save his shot. The Slovenian shot-stopper then pulled off a double save to prevent Volland scoring on the rebound. Finally, Chicharito missed the chance to score with their shot from a tight angle – his low shot went inches wide of the far post. A bitter disappointment.
Oblak remains unbeatable
The Werkself continued to press forward but were unable to find a way past Oblak. The hosts goalkeeper was able to save another Volland shot on 73 minutes as well as a crafty long-range effort from substitute Leon Bailey on 80 minutes. A well-placed shot from the impressive Kevin Kampl was kept out of the far corner by the Slovenia National keeper a minute later.
His opposite number, Bernd Leno, once again showed his form when he held onto a shot from Saul Niguez at the end of a counter-attack by the Colchoneros. At the end of a fair encounter the match ended goalless with the Werkself able to bid farewell to the Champions League with their heads raised high. The performance of the Korkut team is encouraging for the remaining games in the Bundesliga and the battle for a European finish.
Praise for the fans
The 1,000 Leverkusen fans who travelled to Madrid had to very patient in waiting to enter the Calderon Stadium. The police and security staff were overzealous in checking the visiting supporters. That led to long queues and understandable frustration among the fans. “Our fans were very calm and behaved well in spite of the unpleasant situation and unusually long checks involving, for example, the removal of shoes,” explained Meinolf Sprink, director for fans and the community who had first-hand information. Bayer 04 reported the situation the the French UEFA delegate.
The next game for the Werkself is on Saturday (15.30 CET) away to fourth-placed TSG Hoffenheim.
Bayer 04: Leno – Hilbert, Jedvaj, Dragovic, Wendell – Baumgartlinger, Kampl – Bellarabi, Brandt (Brandt 78’) – Volland (Aránguiz 88’), Chicharito ( Mehmedi 81’)
Atlético Madrid: Oblak – Vrsaljko, Giménez, Godin, Lucas – Saul Niguez, Partey, Koke, Carrasco (Savic 71’) – Correa (Gaitan 65’), Griezmann
Booked: Jedvaj (1st yellow card), Baumgartlinger (1st) – Giménez, Gaitan
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