Atlético Madrid got a narrow win over Hannover 96 in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
The home side dominated the first leg of this double encounter, but finished poorly and let in an easy goal. It was because of a fantastic strike by sub Salvio that, at the very end, we got away with a win.
Simeone lined-up with the expected formation, with Diego still on the bench after recovering from injury. Mario Suárez and Miranda returned from a rest against Zaragoza, while Gabi and Juanfran came back into the fold after sitting out our last game due to suspension.
There was an early chance for Falcao, when El Tigre pounced on a loose ball in the area. Goalkeeper Zieler however did well to get his body behind the ball.
Atleti did well to push Hannover back and Arda suddenly found himself in acres of space after a nice pass by Koke, but the Turk hesitated too long to cross or shoot and ultimately lost the ball to a defender.
But the third time proved to be the charm for Atlético and within ten minutes we found ourselves ahead. A free kick from Gabi was headed in from close range by Mr. Europa League, Radamel Falcao.
The €40 million striker had the honour of scoring the 400th goal in our club’s history in European competition.
After the goal the Rojiblancos settled down a bit, and Rausch made a legitimate claim for a penalty after being pushed from behind by Miranda. At the other end Adrián’s diagonal shot went wide.
Radamel Falcao came very close to completing a brace, but he couldn’t keep his header down after Arda delivered the ball perfectly.
In the 39th minute Hannover converted from their first opportunity of the match. Filipe was caught out of position, which forced Godín to step in to cover Stindl. The winger played a perfect pass in the space between Courtois and our defence, and Diouf popped up from behind Miranda’s back to put the ball past our goalkeeper and tie the score.
With Hannover earning the all important away goal, Atleti started the second half aggressively in search of a second goal. Fresh out of the dressing rooms Gabi marched forward and launched Falcao, but the Colombian shot wide.
Atleti threatened from set pieces, but Adrián couldn’t direct his header towards goal and Arda slid a ball across the front of goal.
Hannover tried to break quickly and looked incredibly dangerous on the few occasions they went forward. Diouf was denied his second due to a fantastic save by Thibaut Courtois.
Atlético were unfortunate when referee Lannoy missed a handball by Pogatetz and didn’t even award a corner kick for illegally blocking Falcao’s spectacular bicycle kick.
As the minutes went by and the final whistle seemed to draw closer, Atleti became more and more desperate in their search for a winning goal. Just when it seemed this game would end at 1-1, one of our substitutes made the Vicente Calderón explode.
It was Eduardo Salvio who controlled the ball just outside the area, turned to his right foot and curled it fantastically into the top corner.
In the added time Diego almost put daylight in between the teams. The Brazilian playmaker, Simeone’s other substitution, connected with a spectacular bicycle kick but saw his acrobatic effort saved by Zieler.
The final score leaves both teams with plenty of perspective for the return leg in Germany next week. Unfortunately we will be without Juanfran, Gabi and Arda as the trio all picked up a suspension for accumulation of yellow cards.
Line-up: Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godín, Filipe; Koke (“61 Diego), Gabi, Mario, Arda; Adrián (“69 Salvio) and Falcao.
Goals: 1-0 Falcao (“9); 1-1 Diouf; 2-1 Salvio (“89)