Griezmann among goals as Atletico gain upper hand
Antoine Griezmann was among the scorers for Atletico Madrid as they weathered a late storm against Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday to claim a 4-2 victory in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
Saul Niguez and Antoine Griezmann scored to put the Spanish side two goals up at the interval, but Leverkusen pulled one back through Karim Bellarabi at the start of the second half.
A Kevin Gameiro penalty then restored Atletico’s two-goal advantage just before the hour mark, and while a Stefan Savic own goal gave Leverkusen hope again, Fernando Torres came off the bench to make it 4-2 late on.
The home side put in a brave performance and came close to equalising in the last 10 minutes, but Torres’ late goal sealed a deserved victory for the visitors ahead of the return in Spain next month.
Leverkusen started brightly, while Atletico looked to hit them on the break, and in the opening 10 minutes both had chances.
But in the 17th minute, the away side pounced. Cutting in from the right, Saul Niguez curled a fine shot into the far corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Atletico then grasped the game by the scruff of the neck and in the 25th minute a mistake by Aleksandar Dragovic allowed Gameiro to run at goal. He then squared the ball to Griezmann, who rifled a shot past Bernd Leno.
To their credit, Leverkusen rallied and Kevin Kampl forced an excellent save from Miguel Angel Moya from long range.
Only a fine stop by Leno at the other end prevented Griezmann from scoring again but Leverkusen quickly pulled a goal back at the start of the second half. Benjamin Henrichs found space on the right and delivered a low cross which Karim Bellarabi turned into the far corner.
It was no less than the Leverkusen forwards deserved, but their defence continued to struggle. Gameiro first hit the bar before extending Atletico’s lead from the penalty spot just before the hour mark.
Dragovic was at fault again as he wrestled Gameiro to the ground in the penalty area and the Frenchman calmly struck the ball down the middle to make it 3-1.
Leverkusen refused to give up, and an own goal gifted them another route back into the game on 66 minutes.
Fresh off the bench, Joel Pohjanpalo delivered a fine cross which ricocheted off Savic and into the Atletico net.
At 3-2, the hosts looked invigorated, and Javier Hernandez nearly equalised with 10 minutes to go, his shot cleared just in front of the line by Filipe Luis.
It was substitute Torres who secured the win late on, heading the ball in at the near post to make it 4-2 with just four minutes to play.