Atletico Madrid 1-0 Bayern Munich: Saul Niguez wondergoal seals first-leg win

Sport360 staff 28/04/2016
Atletico's Saul Niguez celebrates his goal.

The Spain Under-21 international’s early wonder goal handed the Spanish side the edge ahead of next week’s second leg at the Allianz Arena.

Arturo Vidal came closest to netting an equaliser for Pep Guardiola’s side but the home defence worked hard to keep his and his team-mates’ efforts out as they recorded their fifth consecutive clean sheet.

Diego Simeone’s hosts began to press from the start and Fernando Torres came close to opening the scoring in the first five minutes but his drilled shot from 20 yards out was blocked by David Alaba.

It did not take long for Atleti to break the deadlock as 21-year-old midfielder Niguez took on the Bayern defence alone from 40 yards out, dribbled the ball past three more opponents before curling it into the bottom corner with a beautiful finish past the diving Manuel Neuer to hand his side the lead after 11 minutes.

Bayern almost levelled two minutes later before Vidal’s header was sent out for a corner and Xabi Alonso’s resulting set-piece was finally made safe after Vidal’s further effort was collected by home goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

Vidal won a free-kick just inside the right touchline which was taken by Douglas Costa but he was just short as he fired into the side netting as Bayern looked to get back into the match midway through the first half.

The Bavarians continued to press for an equaliser as the half wore on but Philipp Lahm’s effort was blocked by Jose Gimenez, while – down at the other end – Antoine Griezmann’s close-range effort was toe-tipped to safety after a break for Atletico.

Oblak was called into action again 10 minutes before the break as he made a diving save to deny on-loan Juventus teenager Kingsley Coman before Vidal fired a shot wide.

Javi Martinez did well to head goalscorer Niguez’s cross out for a corner before it reached the waiting Koke at the near post, while Juan Bernat sent the ball sailing high over the crossbar just before the break.

The visitors started the second half the brightest as Guardiola’s half-time team talk looked to have made an impact, Alaba’s long-range strike only denied by Oblak’s crossbar eight minutes in.

Moments later, the Atletico keeper did well to hold out Javi Martinez’s header and hold onto his clean sheet for a little longer as the German side continued to dominate possession.

Robert Lewandowski was unfortunate as his effort across Oblak’s goal rolled just wide before Guardiola brought on Franck Ribery for Coman in an effort to bag an equaliser.

Bayern’s frustrations started to get the better of them and Vidal conceded a free-kick with 20 minutes to go for bringing down Gabi but Douglas sent his weak shot over the bar as the home side searched for goal number two.

Torres then struck the post from close range and – on the rebound – Koke’s drilled shot was comfortably kept out by a diving Neuer.

Bayern battled on for a leveller but Oblak denied Vidal late on as the home side held on for a narrow victory.

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VIDEO: Man City 'not afraid' of Real - Pellegrini

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Missing the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, Madrid created the better chances in Tuesday’s game, but substitute Jese saw a header hit the bar and City goalkeeper Joe Hart produced late saves to thwart Casemiro and Pepe.

City, appearing in their first semi-final, did not work visiting goalkeeper Keylor Navas until Kevin De Bruyne found the target with a stoppage-time free-kick, but Pellegrini said that his side would show a greater cutting edge in next week’s return leg in the Spanish capital.

“I don’t think they are favourites,” said the Chilean, who was sacked after only one season as Madrid head coach in 2010.

“We have the same option as Real Madrid. Of course they have the advantage to play the first game away, so they try to manage the tempo of the game.


“After that they finish at home. But this team play away very similar to how we play at the Etihad. We had good results playing away against Paris Saint-Germain, against Dynamo Kiev and against Sevilla.








“We are not afraid to go to the Bernabeu and we will see which team plays better in that game.”


Pellegrini claimed that his side had shown the “most intent to win the game” and that Madrid had arrived at the Etihad Stadium “with a result in mind”.


His opposite number, Zinedine Zidane, contested the claim, asserting that his team “always go out to win”, but he agreed that neither side had procured an outright advantage.


“We could have scored a goal, but even with scoring a goal we would not have been sure of being in the final,” said the Frenchman, whose memorable volley against Bayer Leverkusen inspired Madrid to Champions League glory in 2002.



“I think it is still 50-50. We have got a game at home. We know what we are capable of. Right until the death it will be the same. We are going to have to work hard.”


Both teams have fitness concerns ahead of the second leg, but Zidane was upbeat about both Ronaldo, who missed out with a thigh strain, and Karim Benzema, who went off at half-time due to a knee problem.


“We hope that they can both be in the second leg,” he said.


Pellegrini was more pessimistic about David Silva’s chances of gracing the Bernabeu after the Spaniard suffered a hamstring injury in a first-half challenge on Gareth Bale that earned him a booking.


“It is quite tough for him to recover in one week,” Pellegrini said. “We will have a clearer picture tomorrow.”


The City manager also expressed a measure of annoyance that his side will have a day less to recover for the return fixture due to the scheduling of their Premier League game at Southampton on Sunday.


“Unfortunately for us, we are going to have one day’s less rest than Real Madrid (who visit Real Sociedad on Saturday),” he said.


“We tried to change our game and it was impossible, so we need to play on Sunday.


“But we trust in what we are going to do and we are sure we will give all we can to arrive to the final.”



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#360view: Madrid can be confident of success if star men are fit

Andy West 27/04/2016
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Star men: Karim Benzema (L) and Cristiano Ronaldo (R).

After an evening of gentle sparring but no knockout punch, the most important players in the first leg of this Champions League semi-final were the ones who finished it in the grandstand.

Cristiano Ronaldo was an onlooker from the start, while Karim Benzema and David Silva were both withdrawn through injury before the second half got underway.

And two of those absences, ultimately, were key to the outcome.

Silva’s unavailability for the second half was less significant because City had so little possession he would not have been in a position to influence the game.

But had Benzema and Ronaldo been fit and firing, Madrid would surely have taken advantage of an increasingly dominant performance by finding a winner.

After a cagey first half, Los Blancos asserted themselves after the interval, with Sergio Ramos’s unmarked header straight at Joe Hart proving to be the first of many presentable opportunities.

It wasn’t exactly kitchen-sink stuff, but the Spanish side were clearly growing in momentum, strength and confidence by the minute, with City increasingly reliant upon last-ditch challenges and excellent goalkeeping from Hart.

For the final half hour, indeed, the pattern of the game was heavily reminiscent of the recent Clasico, which saw Madrid produce a powerful finish to secure victory.

The difference on this occasion, however, was that neither of their Nou Camp goalscorers were on the pitch, and Madrid’s blank in front of goal was largely due to the fact that their two most potent marksmen were both injured.

Benzema and Ronaldo have combined for 74 goals this season and, considering their team’s second-half dominance, it is very easy to speculate they would have pounced for the vital away goal if they had been able to contribute.

Without a ‘B’ and the ‘C’ from their BBC front line, the solitary remaining ‘B’ did his best to lift the team, and there was no lack of effort or involvement from Gareth Bale, who flitted across all three forward positions in the second half in a bid to find space.

He was certainly more threatening than any single City player, with his several surging runs towards the box always looking capable of creating danger, but the absence of Bale’s fellow foraging forwards allowed City to pay him more attention than ever.

City, meanwhile, are bound to receive some criticism for not adopting a more adventurous approach or attempting to further capitalise on the loss of two of Madrid’s key players. But 0-0 is a decent enough result for the English side, whose ability to avoid conceding an all-important away goal could prove crucial.

Manuel Pellegrini and his players know there is a mountainous difference between a 1-1 draw and a 0-0 draw, and now City can prepare to adopt a counter-attacking approach in the Spanish capital, fully aware that Real will have to seize the initiative and should therefore leave more space to be exploited.

Last night’s stalemate was, however, also a decent outcome for the visitors because a draw away from home against high-class opposition can never be regarded as a bad result, and Madrid will strongly fancy their chances to finish the job at the Bernabeu next week.

They have, after all, won every Champions League home game this season, and they have done so without conceding a single goal in the process. City will be their sternest test yet, but that will not dent their confidence in the slightest.

They were the better team in the first leg, and will believe they can progress with comfort if they perform in a similar fashion in home surroundings. The grand ‘if’, of course, is whether last night’s injured duo will recover in time, which will be Zinedine Zidane’s biggest concern right now.

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