MADRID – Bayer Leverkusen defeated Atletico Madrid 1-0 in Wednesday’s first-leg match of the UEFA Champions League’s by using some of the same tactics espoused by Atleti’s coach, Diego Simeone: intense pressure and defensive strength to prevent the opposing team from completing its offensive volleys.
Leverkusen knew how to play against Atletico: it followed the same guidelines the Spanish team usually applies against most of its rivals.
They blocked the passing lanes, pressured Atleti’s most-skilled players (like Arda Turan and Antoine Griezmann), and quickly passed the ball to their fastest stars, such as Hakan Calhanoglu or Karim Bellarabi.
Atletico Madrid’s goalkeeper, Miguel Angel Moya, said after the clash that Leverkusen had played with “intensity.”
“They have complicated the draw, he added, playing well and making good use of spaces, with speed we couldn’t counter. And they scored a good goal I wasn’t able to stop.”
Uruguayan defender Diego Godin agreed with his teammate Moya that Atletico Madrid lacked intensity.
“I think we were lacking a bit of intensity without the ball. We’re not a team with great ball fluidity, but we’re usually the favorites in the game when we don’t have it in our possession,” the Uruguayan player told Spanish TV Canal Plus.
By the way, Godin will not be able to participate in the second leg after receiving his third yellow card in the competition.
Although Leverkusen committed more fouls than Atletico during the match, the German squad monopolized the ball possession with 63 percent, compared to Atletico’s 37 percent.
The German team successfully completed 445 passes, representing 87 percent of total passing attempts, as opposed to the 150 accurate passes on the Spanish side (74 percent), a rate well below the Rojiblancos’ usual average of 86 percent.
“They pressured very well. They got the ball back quickly and we were not able to maintain possession. They have a very similar style to our own. They are an intense team,” Atleti’s Simeone said after the game.
“I am leaving happy. We had to make two changes in the first half, and played for 20 minutes with one player less than the rivals. It could have been worse. I have the feeling that we escaped alive, because they could have done much more damage,” the coach admitted.
Simeone will face the second leg, scheduled for March 17, at his home turf, the Vicente Calderon stadium, without being able to rely on Diego Godin and Tiago Mendes.