Recap: Atlético Madrid’s famed defense held firm once again to capitalize on Saúl Ñíguez’s superb individual goal and take a 1-0 lead over Bayern Munich after the first leg of their Champions League semifinal at the Vicente Calderon.
Diego Simeone’s side are now just 90 minutes away from a second final appearance in three years. And this win shared plenty of the characteristics of their famous victory over Barcelona in the second leg of the 2014 quarterfinals. Like on that occasion, Atlético, renowned for their steeliness defensively, came roaring out of the blocks, putting their more illustrious opponents under intense pressure. And, as Barcelona did two years ago, Bayern cracked.
Some lackluster Bayern challenges and some intricate dribbling skills from Saúl allowed the 21-year-old Spaniard to thrust into the box before he beat Manuel Neuer with a precise curling shot into the bottom corner.
The ferociousness of Atlético’s start was never going to be able to be maintained. And as Atlético’s intensity dropped, Bayern came back into the game strongly. While they failed to turn their dominance of possession into genuine pressure in the remainder of the first half, they certainly had the hosts worried in the second period.
David Alaba came closest to breaking through, striking an extraordinary shot from 35 yards out that dipped and swerved and beat Jan Oblak in the Atlético goal but came crashing down off the crossbar.
With Philipp Lahm regularly stepping into midfield from right-back, Bayern were dominating the center of the pitch and pinning Atlético back. But far too often, having got into good positions, Bayern’s delivery from wide was poor, with Kinglsey Coman and Douglas Costa particularly culpable.
That lack of service, coupled with another brilliantly organized performance from the Atlético defense, even in the absence of the inspirational Diego Godin, made it a frustrating night for Robert Lewandowski.
While the result could have been even worse, with Fernando Torres hitting a post after a breakaway late on, it will have been a frustrating night overall for Bayern. Although they played well for long spells, Pep Guardiola's side do not have an away goal to show for their efforts. An away goal for Atlético at the Allianz Arena next Tuesday and Bayern will be in the unenviable position of needing to score three times against a side that has now conceded just five goals in 11 Champions League matches this season.
FULLTIME: Atletico Madrid 1-0 Bayern Munich
Atletico will have the advantage heading to Munich next Tuesday, thanks to an early goal from Saul Niguez and yet another resolute defensive performance from Simeone's men. Bayern may reflect on the night as a major missed opportunity. After they conceded early, Bayern came back into the match strongly and dominated most of the second half. But their final delivery as repeatedly poor, and with David Alaba's 35-yard effort hitting the bar, they were left without a precious away goal.
93 mins: Bayern finally get a good cross into the box, but from Ribery's delivery Benatia headed tamley at Oblak. A big chance, almost immediately followed by Vidal scuffing a shot at the Atletico goalkeeper. There will be plenty of regrets for Bayern heading home tonight.
90 mins: Four minutes of injury time for Bayern to finally come up with an away goal to take back to Munich.
89 mins: Arturo Vidal now earns himself a yellow card.
88 mins: Costa strikes a cross straight toward Oblak. The delivery from wide just hasn't been good enough for Bayern tonight.
86 mins: Bayern have lost their momentum in the last few minutes, perhpas not coincidentally since Muller came on. Thiago's quick, incisive passing and ability to spread the play is being missed.
85 mins: Thomas comes on for Saul for Atletico to add some more steel to their midfield.
83 mins: Tempers have flared after an altocation on the touchline between Benatia and Koke, as the Bayern defender dived in. Bentia gets a yellow card and so, too, does Manuel Neuer after he tried to lift Koke up off the ground to get the game back underway.
80 minutes: Bayern have had 71 percent possession thus far, but still a goal eludes them. The latest effort comes from Alaba, who can't replicate the excellence of his wonder strike earlier on, despite being in a far more advantageous position, and slices wide of the goal.
77 mins: Bayern make their final switch, with Mehdi Benatia replacing Juan Bernat, meaning Alaba will fo to left-back to try and add some attacking thrust down that side.
75 mins: Inches away from a massive second goal from Atletico. Bayern are throwing more and more men forward, leaving gaps on the break for Atletico to capitalize on. Torres so nearly takes full advantage, cutting inside past Alaba, but striking against the post with the outside of his right foot. From the rebound Koke had a clear sight of goal, too, but his curling effort lacked venom and was well held by Neuer. This is a thrilling contest now.
73 mins: Vidal is invited to take a shot from 25 yards and accepts the offer with a fiercely hit effort, but one that Oblak managed to parry away. Moments earlier, Bayern had a chance to counter, but Ribery's pass fell behind Lewandowski as he accelrated down the left.
71 mins: A superb pass over the top of Atletico's defense from Philipp Lahm gets Costa in behind, but the Brazilian lifted his effort over the bar.
70 mins: Guardiola makes his second change, replacing Thiago with Thomas Muller.
69 mins: Now more than midway through the second half, and Atletico haven't even come close to having an effort at goal since the interval. It's all down to Bayern to break the home side down.
67 mins: Ribery has taken his regular place on the left of the attack, with Douglas Costa moving over to the right, Bayern are continuing to apply the pressure, but can they get what could be a vital away goal?
64 mins: Lewandowski has been kept very quiet so far, but from Vidal's clever flick he has just had his first sniff in the penalty box. He's shot from a difficult angle goes wide across goal, however. And now Guardiola has turned to his bench for the first time. Unsurprisingly it's Coman to make way, with Ribery coming on in his place.
60 mins: Coman keeps getting into dangerous positions but his delivery keeps letting him down. After having one cross cut out, the young Frenchman has just over-hit a cross when found by a fine pass in behind down the right.
59 mins: Nervy times for Atletico, as Vidal sends a dangerous cross into the box that Lewandowski almost got his head to. Bayern are keeping Atletico penned in their defensive third now, moving the ball much quicker.
56 mins: Bayern are putting Atletico under genuine pressure now. Martinez has just got a free header from a corner 12 yards out, but it's too close to Oblak, who holds on well.
54 min: Bayern hit the crossbar! An extraordinary effort by David Alaba from 35 yards dipped and swirled and had Oblak beaten but the ball thundered down off the underside of the crossbar and bounced to safety. You can't get much closer to an equalizer than that.
53 mins: While Coman has the ability to cause problems for Atletico, it's not quite come off for him so far, and you wonder how long it will be before he is replaced, with both Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller on the bench. Not to mention World Cup winner Mario Gotze. Guardiola certainly has options.
51 mins: This really could be a defining 45 minutes in this tie. A 1-0 win would be a great result for Atletico to take to Munich, knowing an away goal would leave Bayern needing to score three times. But if Bayern can get an away goal then they would be in the driving seat heading home, where they have been far stronger than on the road in European competition.
48 mins: Bayern have found space going forward for probably the first time, Lewandowski's cross from the right falls for Vidal steaming in on the edge of the box, but he scuffs his effort into the ground and it's cleared away. Still, a positive start to the second half from Guardiola's side.
47 mins: Bayern win a corner right at the start of the half. It's a deep one that's headed back into the danger zone by Alaba, but Coman can only head tamely wide.
Second half kickoff: Atletico Madrid get the first leg back underway at the Vicente Calderon, leading 1-0.
HALFTIME: Atletico Madrid 1-0 Bayern Munich
Saul's fine individual goal, after some less than exemplary Bayern tackles, gives Atletico a lead to take into halftime. Simeone's men began the game in similar fashion to their quarterfinal second leg against Barcelona two seasons ago, starting with a ferocious intensity and getting their reward. Since then Bayern have come back into the game, and have dominated possession, but haven't yet found a way to unlock Atletico's notoriously resolute backline.
44 mins: Atletico haven't been much of an attacking force in the last 15 minutes, but they've just gone close as Koke's flick from Saul's cross deflected just wide off of Martinez.
43 mins: Bayern won't get many chances to counter on Atletico tonight, which explains Lewandowski was so frustrated that one opportunity just went to waster there. Thiago had won the ball in midfield, but his linkup with Lewandowski was cut out before they could surge forward against an undermanned backline.
38 mins: Amid plenty of tangles in the middle, Thiago has curled a free-kick straight into the arms of Oblak. Not the first poor delivery of the night from set-pieces from Guardiola's side. Meanwhile, Vidal and Gabi are having a running battle in midfield. And Vidal has just stuck an elbow into the midriff of the Atletico captain. He escapes punishment on this occasion, but that's certainly a clash to keep an eye on.
36 mins: Arturo Vidal has been at the forefront of things for Bayern so far, but his shooting was wayward on this occasion, blasting high into the stands from 25 yards. The Chilean is one Bayern player who certainly won't shirk a physical challenge.
34 mins: Coman threatens danger again, but, having got to a great position on the byline, he drilled a cross straight into the hands of Oblak. The delivery from Coman and Costa has to be good tonight.
31 mins: Bayern's two wingers, Costa and Coman, have provided glimpses that they could be crucial to unlocking Atletico's defense. Not only are they staying wide and opening up the pitch, but they have the ability to beat their man in one-on-one battles.
28 mins: At the end of Bayern's best spell of possession so far, Lahm cut inside on his left foot and found space for his shot, but saw it hit into Augusto Fernandez. The Bayern captain appealed for a handball, and it certainly struck Fernandez's arm, but it would have been very harsh. This is better from Bayern, though.
25 mins: Some fans in the stadium thought Bayern had an equalizer. Douglas Costa sent in a free-kick from wide on the right with ferocious whip that had Oblak worried but flew into the outside of the side netting.
23 mins: Atletico have this game right where they want it now. They can wait for Bayern to take the initiative then snap into challenges and mount quick counter attacks, knowing they already have a scoreline that would suit them very nicely traveling to the Allianz Arena.
19 mins: You have to winder if Guardiola gave any thought to moving Javi Martinez into midfield for this game. So far Bayern have struggled to cope with the physical intensity of Atletico's midfield.
Here's a look at Saul Niguez's goal:
14 mins: Bayern have tried to hit back immediately and Vidal has gone in with a header against Oblak but has taken a strong blow to the head from the Atletico goalkeeper and has had to go off the pitch after receiving treatment.
GOAL! Atletico Madrid 1-0 Bayern (Saul, 11)
Atletico grab an early lead and what a goal it was. Saul Niguez slalomed past Thiago, Bernat and Xabi Alonso before curling a perfect strike with his left foot in off the post and into Neuer's net. Atletico have started by far the better and now they have their lead.
8 mins: Fernando Torres runs down the right and cuts in on his left foot to fire at goal, but his shot was a tame one and easily claimed by Manuel Neuer. At the other end, Bayern's first attack ends with Coman's cross being taken by Jan Oblak in the Atletico goal.
7 mins: Atletico are playing at a frenetic tempo, both with and without the balkl. Griezmann has had a couple of glances at goal, but had one shot blocked and was then offside before attempting an overhead kick.
6 mins: Roared on by the Vicente Calderon crowd, Atletico are pressing Bayern ferociously in midfield early on. It has been a struggle for the visitors to deploy their usual possession game so far.
5 mins: As always, Atletico will be looking to make the most of their set-piece chances tonight. They've just had their first one in an attacking area, but Bayern easily cleared the danger.
3 mins: Bayern unsurprisingly looking to control the early possession, with Atletico ready to snap into challenges.
Kickoff! Bayern Munich get the first leg of this Champions League semifinal underway.
2:15 p.m. EDT: Bayern Munich have decided it is too soon to rise Jerome Boating back into action, with the defender not even making the bench for there first leg of the Champions League semifinal. The other notable decisions from Pep Guardiola are to opt for French teenager Kingsley Coman ahead of Franck Ribery, with Thomas Muller also only among the substitutes. Meanwhile Juan Bernat comes into the side at left-back, with David Alaba set to partner Javi Martinez in the center of defense.
Atletico manager Diego Simeone, meanwhile, int he absence of Diego Godin, has opted to partner Jose Maria Gimenez with Stefan Savic at the heart of his backline.
— Atleti English (@atletienglish) April 27, 2016
3 changes from the 2-2 draw in Lisbon: Bernat, Coman & Lewandowski start in place of Müller, Ribéry & Kimmich. pic.twitter.com/UyIrCJifYg
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) April 27, 2016
Preview: Having dethroned Barcelona, Atlético Madrid will now look to upset another of Europe’s Super Clubs when welcoming Bayern Munich to the Vicente Calderon for the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.
Bayern are in the semifinals for the fifth straight season, and have won the continent’s premier competition five times, putting them behind only Real Madrid and AC Milan. Atlético, meanwhile, are still chasing their first European Cup, having twice been denied the trophy in agonizing circumstances.
The most recent of those came just two years ago. That year, just like this season, they defeated Barcelona in the quarterfinals, but were denied in the final against Real Madrid by an injury-time equalizer and then an extra-time blitz. And 40 years earlier, it was their semifinal opponents this time around who inflicted a painful defeat.
Atlético looked set to take the trophy when they took the lead in extra time in Brussels through a man who would later go onto manage them on four separate occasions, Luis Aragonés. However, Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck struck an equalizer in the final minute before Bayern went onto win the replay, 4-0.
Atlético will be underdogs once again this time around, although they have gained a fully deserved reputation under manager Diego Simeone for overcoming clubs blessed with greater wealth and pedigree.
Bayern, though, have particular motivation for wanting to make it through the tie. In Pep Guardiola’s first two seasons in charge, their Champions League ambitions have been halted at the semifinal stage. Now, with Guardiola set to leave Bavaria to take over at Manchester City this summer, it is the Catalan’s final chance to land the Champions League and ensure that his time at Bayern is regarded as an unqualified success.