Atlético Madrid are still without a win in this season’s Europa League after a 1-1 draw with Bayer Leverkusen at the Vicente Calderón on Thursday night.
Los Rojiblancos can have no complaints about the result after a very poor first half display. We really struggled to get our passing going and gave the ball away on more than one occasion.
Leverkusen started well and, although they lined up somewhat defensively, still managed to attack impressively and threaten David De Gea’s goal.
Our young Spanish ‘keeper was tested early after Domínguez gave away a free kick on the edge of the area. Derdiyok took the chance and whistled a shot from 30 yards out just past De Gea’s right hand post. Just a few minutes later he threatened Atlético’s goal again but could only find the side netting.
Leverkusen’s attack continued to test the Atleti defence. Our sloppy passing was getting us into trouble and an impressive one-two between Barnetta and Derdiyok resulted in a good chance for the away side, but Barnetta volleyed the return ball miles over the crossbar.
Our own attack was struggling to get into the game. Forlán had a weak shot from outside the area saved after he hit it directly at Bayer’s goalkeeper, Adler. Reyes was being hounded by two or three Leverkusen players on the right wing and was heavily involved in foul after foul.
Diego Costa however, the replacement for Sergio Agüero who is still out through injury, burst into life and attacked down the left-flank, skipping past a defender and crossing a ball into the box. Filipe struggled to get his head behind the ball and our first real chance came to nothing.
Atlético were defending well, especially Perea who headed a menacing cross behind for a corner five minutes before half-time. The corner was taken by Leverkusen and headed on by Sami Hyppia, who seemed to collide with De Gea. Filipe tried to acrobatically clear the ball but just ended up hitting it against his own post, before it rebounded to Derdiyok who slotted the ball past De Gea from ten yards to give Leverkusen an away lead.
Barnetta broke through a few minutes later and again tested De Gea, who made a great save putting it out for a corner. Leverkusen should perhaps have doubled their lead but the teams went in for half time at 0-1.
Some surprising substitutions at half-time. Diego Forlán, who was hardly involved, was brought off in favour of Tiago. Raúl García made way for Fran Mérida.
Just six minutes into the second half, the substitute Mérida had a huge impact on the game. Chasing down a through ball into the Leverkusen area, he just managed to get a touch on the ball before he was scythed down by Sami Hyppia. The Italian referee awarded a spot-kick and resisted calls from the home fans to send the already-booked Hyppia off.
Simão stepped up and converted the penalty, smashing it in against the post to make it 1-1. Atleti had been let off from their poor first half showing and were back in the game.
Atlético attacked a lot better in the second half. Ujfalusi and Filipe particularly were pushing down the wings, overlapping Mérida and Reyes. Both managed to get in a few decent crosses but none could be converted. Reyes came closest, but after a magnificent standing cross from Ujfalusi, managed to fire his header quite a way wide from 6 yards, despite being left unmarked in the Leverkusen box.
Leverkusen didn’t sit back and hold on to the draw though; they kept attacking and in particular substitute striker Hermes had numerous chances inside the Atleti box but De Gea was more than a match for them.
Our passing improved by miles in the second half but the game descended into a stop/start affair, with the referee barely letting the game flow. Reyes was brought down on numerous occasions and showed why he is one of the most fouled players in La Liga.
The match finished 1-1, and Atlético will be disappointed to have played two games and picked up only a single point. Against the second seeds in the group though, a draw can be seen as a good result, especially considering how Atlético began the game. A huge improvement will be needed if we’re to take three points in our next Europa League game against Rosenborg.
Line-up: De Gea; Ujfalusi, Perea, Domínguez, Filipe; Reyes, Assunção, Raúl García, Simão; Forlán and Diego Costa.
Subs: Tiago (“46) and Fran Mérida (“46)
Goals: 0-1 Derdiyok; 1-1 Simão