Saul Ñíguez’s inner-Maradona came to light Wednesday night as his 11th minute run into the penalty box turned into a magnificent effort that beat Manuel Neuer, hit the post and went in.
The opener was good enough to see Atlético Madrid hold on at the Vicente Calderón and head to the Allianz next week with a well deserved 1-0 win.
Saul’s goal came about as Fox Sports 1 announcers were highlighting Atleti’s defensive capabilities, and then before you knew it the midfielder was dropping Xabi Alonso and using Alaba as a shield to blast a strike past Neuer.
— FourFourTwo USA (@FourFourTwoUSA) April 27, 2016
It is that courageous mentality from Saul that personified Atleti in the first-half. They managed to push up high on the pitch and keep Bayern passing around the flanks.
There was a familiarity to the first-half of the second-leg against Barcelona, where Simeone managed to get his team to kill the middle of the pitch without sitting back.
The first-half would end with Guardiola exiting to the dressing room likely wondering what he needed to do to get his side around this Spanish club. Whatever he said or adjustments he made, it helped his team in the second half.
Ten minutes into the second stretch, Alaba managed to shoot a brilliant ball 30 feet from the penalty area, only to see it bounce off the cross-bar.
However, the next outside-the-box chance that came Bayern’s way would come from Arturo Vidal and this time the woodwork wasn’t there to save Atleti, it was Jan Oblak himself. The Atleti keeper managed to set aside a beautifully placed shot from the Chilean and keep the Germans off the scoresheet.
Guardiola’s squad came out with a lot more desperation as the clock winded down in the second-half, and as a result, managed to test Atleti’s fortress of a formation. The game then resembled the second-half of that same Barcelona quarter-final match.
As Bayern pressed on, it was José Giménez who managed to show the world why Atleti fans rate him so highly, after his sliding tackle blocked Coman from testing Oblak.
— Carlo Valladares (@C_V_News) April 27, 2016
The second-half wasn’t all German though, in fact, Fernando Torres put some Spanish flavor into the mix when in the 75th minute he emerged from the right, cut past Alaba, and with his right foot, shot an outside-the-boot blazer that hit off the left post.
The chance wasn’t meant to be, but with Vidal missing another opportunity in stoppage time, it was enough for the Spaniards.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) April 27, 2016
Simeone and Co. will take this 1-0 victory and head to the Allianz next week knowing they need to finish the job at one of the most passionately supported grounds in Europe.
Atleti return to action on Saturday with another important La Liga match at home to Rayo Vallecano, before the second leg against Bayern next Tuesday 2nd May.