Diego Simeone will be the happier of the two coaches involved at the BayArena on tuesday night as Atletico ran out 2-4 winners over Bayer Leverkusen. As expected, it was a helter-skelter affair with plenty of chances at either end throughout the 90.
To start, Bayer were the team in control but slowly Atletico started to show their fangs up front and were ahead after 17 minutes when Saul won the ball back from a lacksidsical Kevin Kampl, took the ball on his left and curled beyond Bernd Leno to give Atletico the lead. Simeone and crew were on cloud nine when just eight minutes later, the imitable Kevin Gameiro broke free thanks to a defensive error by Omer Toprak. He held up the ball and waited for his teammate and compatriot to arrive on the scene as Griezmann slotted home without breaking stride from Gameiro's lay-off. it was Atletico two, Bayer zero at the break and everything was going to plan for last year's beaten finalists.
Both sides started as they finished the first half and Bayer soon had a breakthrough. Savic lost Bellarabi at the front post and a lovely cross by Henrichs just needed coaxing into the far corner, which is exactly what the German winger provided. From being in full control of the tie to a nervous second half for Atletico, it was clear that Bayer were not going to lie down. Just 11 minutes later, Gameiro, who was arguably Atletico's man of the match, skipped down the right hand side, nutmegged Alexander Dragovic and forced the defender to pull him down to leave the ref with little choice but to award the penalty. Replays suggested he was outside the box but contact was initiated on the periphery with the Frenchman going down inside the box. If the penalty call caused debate, the actual penalty kick did not. Gameiro drove it down the middle and Atletico had restored their two goal advantage.
With 22 minutes left on the clock, a seemingly routine cross was collected by Moya only for the Spanish keeper to let it slip out of his hands and onto the shin of Stefan Savic, who knocked the ball into his own net. This game was far from over.
Fernando Torres, who has been in spectacular form but was left out due to Gameiro's extra-spectacular hat-trick at the weekend, got on the end of a sublime Sime Vrsaljko cross and headed Atletico back into a two-goal lead, which is how the game would end despite Bayer's best efforts to really force the issue.
They have to head to Spain and to the Vicente Calderon with eyes on scoring three without letting their opponents net one in a couple of weeks. It will take a Herculean performance but based on tonight's display, they are not afraid of putting in the hard yards.