MADRID – A spectacular performance by goalkeeper Jan Oblak was all that stood between Atletico Madrid and annihilation by a seemingly unstoppable Real Madrid side on Tuesday in the first leg of a Champions League quarterfinal clash that ended 0-0.
Expectations were high as last season’s Champions finalists – Real prevailed to win its 10th trophy – prepared to face each other at Atleti’s Vicente Calderon stadium, but the home crowd suffered through a first half in which the Blancos completely dominated play.
Both with and without the ball, the visitors outplayed the Colchoneros.
What Real couldn’t do, however, was put the ball past Atletico’s Slovenian keeper, who made great stops against Dani Carvajal, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo – on a free kick – and James Rodriguez. And that was just in the first half.
Thanks to Oblak, Atleti reached the break on level terms with the Blancos despite an abysmal first-half performance.
The Atletico of four years ago, before the arrival of Argentine coach Diego Simeone, likely would have folded, but the team that won the Copa del Rey two years ago, finished first in La Liga last year and reached the 2013-2014 Champions League final is made of harder stuff.
While still not in top form, the Colchoneros that took the field in the second half were much improved and the dynamic of the match shifted as the home side began to generate scoring chances.
By the end of the contest, most of the action was in front of the Real Madrid goal, with a pair of corners, two shots from late substitute Fernando Torres and an excellent chance for Raul Garcia.
Atletico remains undefeated in seven matches against Real Madrid in the 2014-2015 campaign, but that statistic won’t mean anything when the two clubs meet next week at the Santiago Bernabeu for the decisive second leg of the quarterfinal.
Real’s Marcelo and Atleti’s Mario Suarez will miss the second leg after each of them picked up a pair of yellow cards on Tuesday.