Atletico Madrid keep Bayer at bay to reach UCL quarterfinals

Atletico Madrid reached the Champions League quarterfinals for a fourth straight season, holding Bayer Leverkusen to a goalless draw at the Vicente Calderon to win 4-2 on aggregate.

Last term’s runners-up therefore became the third Spanish side into the last eight, along with Barcelona and holders Real Madrid, giving La Liga the most teams in Friday’s draw. Had Bayer progressed, the Bundesliga would have held that honour.

In an entertaining contest, Leverkusen created good chances, several for ex-Manchester United forward Javier Hernandez, but when they hit the target they found keeper Jan Oblak in unbeatable form, including with a scarcely-believable triple save. Similarly Bernd Leno pulled off some stunning stops.

The Vicente Calderon, where Diego Simeone’s side have a formidable European record, will therefore host at least one more Champions League tie before Atletico move to a new ground.

The visitors had changed manager since the first leg, Tayfun Korkut replacing Roger Schmidt who was sacked after a 6-2 loss at Borussia Dortmund.

Simeone had Fernando Torres available for the first time since the former Liverpool and Chelsea striker suffered a head injury that saw him lose consciousness against Deportivo La Coruna on March 2. Torres was an unused substitute after returning to full training on Monday.

Bayer’s Kevin Volland had the game’s first chance, shooting just wide of the right post from the left of the area. Angel Correa spurned Atletico’s opening opportunity, lingering too long over a blocked shot from near the penalty spot.

Hernandez fired just over the bar when he should have done better from 15 yards before a tense period of play midway through the first half.

With half-time approaching, visiting keeper and captain Leno made two brilliant saves to keep the tie alive. First he dived to his left to keep Correa out after the forward was played in by Antoine Griezmann’s neat flick. Then Leno, wearing a face protector after rupturing nose cartilage at the weekend, went to his right to deny Koke’s low drive from outside the box.

Chances continued to come early in the second period. Volland surged down the right but his ball across goal eluded Hernandez. Correa then jinked his way into the area only to shoot wide. Soon afterwards Griezmann was just off target with an audacious chip from the right.

Oblak turned in an exceptional series of saves midway through the second half, in quick succession denying Julian Brandt and Volland twice immediately before Hernandez shot across goal.

Wendell and Kevin Kample’s long-range efforts forced further successive saves from Oblak.

Late on, Saul Niguez shot straight at Leno, as Simeone’s side try to reach a third Champions League final in four years.

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