It was slippery, it was ice cold and it was, quite literally, unwatchable. Atlético took on a snow storm and hosts Bayer Leverkusen tonight, hoping to qualify for the next round of the Europa League.
But a 1-1 draw in the BayArena and a 2-0 win for Aris meant that the reigning champions finish third in Group B and are knocked out in the first round of the cup competition.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying though. Raúl García and Filipe glided all over the pitch like professional ice skaters, but we failed to convert the many chances we created.
In the first half Forlán was given the clearest opportunities to score, but the Uruguayan was once again unlucky, much like last Saturday when he wasted multiple chances in the first half.
After ten minutes Sergio Agüero left two defenders behind with a blistering turn of pace, but his cross was too sharp and Forlán just missed out on it at the second post.
Just after the half hour mark Cacha missed the biggest opportunity of the night. After a long pass by Domínguez, Simão skipped past his marker and dribbled all the way up to the goal. There, he pulled it back for Forlán, but the forward shot straight at goalkeeper Giefer from close range.
Just before half time Diego was simply unfortunate when he hit a brilliant volley after Leverkusen cleared a corner, but his shot whistled past the far post.
Atlético had the better chances in the first half, but if it weren’t for Luis Perea the hosts would have taken the lead just before the break. The defender was just in time to block Renato Augusto’s shot.
Leverkusen gained control over the match in the second half and came close to scoring when Valera cleared a cross through the centre. Patrick Helmes didn’t hesitate for a second but volleyed just wide.
The forward did score a little later however. Domínguez lost an aerial battle and Helmes found himself eye to eye with De Gea after Filipe and Perea took too long to respond. The German striker calmly slotted it past our goalkeeper and gave Leverkusen the lead.
The score forced Quique Sánchez Flores to react, which he did by bringing on Diego Costa and Fran Mérida. The latter made an immdiate impact.
Referee Dan Tudor got in the way of a Leverkusen pass in midfield and unintentionally gave us possession. Agüero received a long pass and the Argentine, who played an excellent match, tried to shrug off two opponents. The ball fell right onto Mérida’s feet and the fresh substitute scored with his left to put the sides level.
Leverkusen almost instantly took the lead again, but Helmes failed to make the most of a slip up by Perea.
In the remaining fifteen minutes the match could have gone either way. First Mario Suárez blasted the ball over the bar after a futsal-esque assist by Raúl García.
Shortly after, Helmes again appeared before De Gea, but this time the shotstopper saved with his feet.
The last opportunity came just before the final whistle, but Agüero’s shot from inside the six yard box was brilliantly blocked by a Leverkusen defender with a last ditch tackle.
In the end it wouldn’t have mattered for Atlético. Over in Salonika, Aris scored in the added time of both halfs to take a 2-0 win over Rosenborg. The Norwegians could have done us a huge favour, but failed to take their chances and were unlucky when the Greeks scored the opening goal from an offside position.
Line-up: De Gea; Valera, Perea, Domínguez, Filipe; Raúl García, Mario Suárez (“85 Tiago), Paulo Assunção; Simão (“72 Fran Mérida), Diego Forlán (“67 Diego Costa) and Agüero.
Goals: 1-0 Helmes (“70); 1-1 Fran Mérida (“73)