MADRID, Spain – Saul Niguez’s superb individual effort gave Atletico Madrid a vital 1-0 win going into their Champions League semi-final second leg against Bayern Munich.
As they look to reach the final for a second time in three seasons, Atletico took the lead early on at the Vicente Calderon on Wednesday night through Niguez’s fine run and finish, before Antoine Griezmann came close to a second, only to be denied by Manuel Neuer’s save.
More of the chances fell to Bayern in the second half as David Alaba hit the bar from 40 yards out and Jan Oblak saved well from an Arturo Vidal effort, while Atletico’s Fernando Torres saw his effort hit the post with 15 minutes remaining.
The two sides meet again on Tuesday in Munich, where Bayern will be looking to reach a fourth final in seven seasons.
Pep Guardiola dropped Thomas Muller to the bench in favour of an extra midfielder in a 4-3-3 formation, but it was Atletico who had the better of the opening stages.
They took the lead after 11 minutes through Niguez’s sublime piece of skill and finish, dancing past Juan Bernat and Xabi Alonso with two quick touches before driving forward and curling into the bottom left-hand corner from 12 yards past Neuer.
Bayern nearly replied immediately through Vidal’s header after Jose Gimenez’s sliced clearance, but the Atletico defender redeemed himself by clearing from under the crossbar.
Griezmann came close to doubling Atletico’s lead on 30 minutes, holding off Javi Martinez to drive into the area, but his poked effort from six yards was saved by the feet of Neuer.
Bayern had the majority of the ball in the second half with 75 per cent possession, but it was a fine long-range effort from Alaba which brought them closest to levelling, his audacious 40-yard effort bouncing off the crossbar with Oblak beaten.
Oblak then got down well to save from Martinez’s close-range header from a corner two minutes later, as the Germans spent the majority of the second period camped in Atletico’s half.
Douglas Costa poked the ball just over the bar from Philipp Lahm’s through ball with 20 minutes remaining, before Oblak was again at his best to beat away Vidal’s fierce drive from outside the area.
Atletico eventually held on, although they could have gone into the second leg with a two-goal advantage, Torres’ deft touch and shot with the outside of his boot bouncing off the left-hand post. – Skysports