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Atletico Madrid hold two-goal edge after first leg at Bayer Leverkusen

Atletico Madrid

Antoine Griezmann put Atletico 2-0 up after 25 minutes. Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid opened their Champions League knockout stage with a 4-2 win away to Bayer Leverkusen in the round of 16 first leg on Tuesday.

Saul Niguez and Antoine Griezmann put Atletico 2-0 up before Karim Bellarabi got a goal back for the hosts early in the second half. Kevin Gameiro then restored Atletico’s two-goal edge from the penalty spot before a Stefan Savic own goal again reduced Leverkusen’s deficit.

But Fernando Torres, on as a late substitute, had the final say as Atletico came away with a comfortable advantage ahead of their home leg.

Leverkusen nearly gifted Atletico the opener in the 11th minute. Griezmann’s shot was saved by Bernd Leno, but when Filipe Luis put a second ball into the box, Wendell’s clearance clanged off the crossbar.

The hosts had a good response, though, working their way into the Atletico box before Kevin Kampl’s shot deflected wide.

But Atletico were on top on 17 minutes when Saul ran past the sliding Kampl on the wing, cut into the box and unleashed a marvelous curling effort over Leno’s outstretched arm.

It got worse for Leverkusen eight minutes later when Aleksandar Dragovic miscued an attempted header at the centre line, and it fell for Gameiro to run towards goal. He was able to hold the ball up long enough to cross to Griezmann, who fired home off the underside of the bar.

And Atletico were unfortunate not to be 3-0 up when Gameiro again centred for Griezmann, who was in on goal but could not beat Leno.

Leverkusen had a penalty shout just before the break when Javier Hernandez collided with Gabi while jumping for a ball, and though it wasn’t given the incident did seem to spark the hosts to start the second half.

Indeed, Bellarabi found a goal for Leverkusen in the 48th minute as he redirected Benjamin Henrichs’s low cross into the opposite corner of the net.

But Gameiro nearly restored the advantage two minutes later when he struck the corner of the woodwork and then did find Atletico’s third before the hour mark in controversial fashion.

Gameiro tried to run past Aleksandar Dragovic on the side of the goal, and though the Austrian defender appeared to make contact outside the box, Scottish referee William Collum pointed to the penalty spot, and Gameiro converted easily.

Leverkusen were not finished, though, and got a goal back on 68 minutes when Julian Brandt’s cross was pushed away by Mayo but only against the leg of defender Savic, who could do nothing as the ball entered the net.

The hosts pushed for an equaliser and thought they had one with 10 minutes to play, only for Luis to clear Hernandez’s effort off the line.

And in the 86th minute it was Atletico who restored their two-goal advantage, with Torres flicking home a header from Sime Vrsaljko’s cross to cap the scoring ahead of the second leg in Madrid.

Credit:@ESPN staff

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