Hakan Calhanoglu's second-half strike gave Bayer Leverkusen a 1-0 home win over 10-man Atletico Madrid in the Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday, leaving it all to play for in the second leg.
"You could see from the first minute that we wanted to make an impression in the Champions League, to put ourselves in a good position to get through and I think we did that," Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt said. "We deserved to win."
Karim Bellarabi set up Calhanoglu in the 57th minute. It looked like the Germany midfielder wasted a good chance when he opted not to shoot, but he rolled the ball back with the underside of his boot for Calhanoglu to control with his first touch and fire under the crossbar with his next.
"We were clearly the better team. I just released the shot," Calhanoglu said.
Substitute Fernando Torres thought he'd equalized with a header from a corner in the 75th, but the ball went out of play before coming back in.
Atletico's Tiago was dismissed in the 77th with a second yellow card for sliding in on Bellarabi. He earned his first in the first half for breaking up a counterattack with a cynical foul on Josip Drmic.
In the night's other match, Monaco beat Arsenal 3-1 in London.
Diego Simeone sent out the oldest Atletico side to play in the Champions League with an average age of 28 years, 260 days and it was a lackluster display from last year's beaten finalists, who can be grateful not to have lost by more.
"The outcome puts us in a good position," Simeone said.
Leverkusen captain Lars Bender fired wide from a promising break in the seventh minute, Mario Mandzukic cleared off the line, and the Spanish champions were scrambling again shortly afterward with the ball ricocheting around the penalty area.
Leverkusen defender Emir Spahic came closest in the 26th, when his effort from distance crashed back off the top left corner, before Miguel Angel Moya punched away from Drmic.
Tempers became frayed midway through the half, with angry words between Schmidt and the visiting coaches following a foul on Atletico captain Gabi.
"They were constantly provoking from the bench, and they send this guy to create trouble. I wasn't going to be bullied," Schmidt said of German Burgos, the Atletico assistant coach.
"I have no idea what the Leverkusen coach was saying. I went over to defend Burgos, who's my friend," Simeone said.
On the pitch, the home side was grateful to goalkeeper Bernd Leno for punching the ball away from Antoine Griezmann, and again before the interval, when he produced a brilliant save to save an acrobatic effort from Tiago.
"We showed reaction to some not so good games. They played a lot of long balls and set pieces but we defended well," Leno said.
Calhanoglu sparked a scrappy second half into life with his superb finish. Leverkusen should have made it 2-0 shortly afterward, only for a wayward pass to let the stretched Atletico defense off the hook. Leno blocked Torres, then Drmic tested Moya at the other end.
More chances were missed after Tiago's sending off. Leverkusen may yet rue them in the second leg on March 17.
"Away goals are so important that a goal late in the match would have made our situation much worse," Schmidt said. "We didn't allow them many chances. We had some more chances but it is important that we did not concede. We can live with this result."Reuse content