Atletico beat Leverkusen in Champions League

Leverkusen (Germany), Feb 22 (IANS) Spanish football club Atletico Madrid put one leg in the quarter-finals after easing past hosts Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League last-16 here.

The visitors from Spain secured a crucial 4-2 away victory on Tuesday night as goals from Saul Niguez, Antoine Griezmann, Kevin Gameiro and Fernando Torres sealed the deal against a resilient Leverkusen, reports Xinhua news agency.

Atletico ensured a bright start when Saul Niguez broke the deadlock with a curling attempt from the right edge of the Leverkusen penalty box into the far corner 17 minutes into the game.

Leverkusen suffered another setback when Aleksandar Dragovic’s clearance went in the wrong direction allowing Atletico’s Kevin Gameiro to set up the ball for striker Antoine Griezmann, who slotted home the square pass into the roof of the net eight minutes later.

Diego Simeone’s men remained dangerous and should have added anther goal to their lead but Griezmann failed to overcome onrushing Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno in a one-on-one in the 34th minute.

The hosts recovered after the restart and reduced the arrears three minutes into the second half when Karim Bellarabi tapped home a low shot into the far post corner.

Atletico remained unfazed, and were able to restore their two-goal lead after Dragovic fouled Gameiro inside the box to cause a penalty. The striker stepped up and overcame Leno from the spot in the 59th minute.

Roger Schmidt’s team kept it bowling and reduced the deficit to one single goal as Stefan Savic deflected Julian Brandt’s low cross into the wrong goal at 68 minutes of play.

Leverkusen pressed frenetically for the equaliser but the visitors put the result beyond doubt when substitute Fernando Torres headed home a cross from Sime Vrsaljk with just four minutes to go.

“Leverkusen fought their way back into the game in the second half, but overall it’s a very satisfying evening for us,” Atletico manager Simeone said.

The second leg of the tie will be held in Madrid on March 15.