Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s potent pressing game nullified the twin threat of Mario Mandzukic and Antoine Griezmann, who have scored 37 goals so far this season.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen have one foot in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals following their shock 1-0 home win over last season’s finalists Atletico Madrid, who finished with 10 men on Wednesday.
Hakan Calhanoglu’s superb second-half goal in the round-of-16, first-leg clash means Bayer take a slender advantage to Atletico’s Estadio Vicente Calderon for the return leg on March 17.
“I think we were clearly the better team and therefore we deserved the win,” match-winner Calhanoglu said. “I gave it all I had for the goal, but we have to play just as well in the return leg as we did today and then we have a good chance.”
Reigning Spanish champions Atletico played the last quarter of an hour with 10 men after defensive midfielder Tiago was sent off for a second booking.
“The result makes things tough for the second leg, but we still have a chance,” Atletico captain Gabi said.
Bayer, the 2001-2002 Champions League finalists, edged closer to breaking their round-of-16 jinx having failed to pass that stage of the competition in their three previous attempts.
Roger Schmidt’s Leverkusen ended their three-match winless streak in the Bundesliga in style by stunning the 2013-2014 finalists.
Having been humiliated 4-0 at home by Paris Saint-Germain last season at the same stage in the competition, Leverkusen produced a spirited performance.
Their potent pressing game nullified the threat of Atletico striker Mario Mandzukic and attacking midfielder Antoine Griezmann, who have scored 37 goals between them this season.
The hosts controlled the early stages as Mandzukic found himself in the unusual position of clearing a 12th-minute shot off the goal-line from Leverkusen centerback Emir Spahic.
The Bosnia captain then rattled the top-left corner of the goal post with a long-range strike on 26 minutes with Atletico goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya beaten.
Madrid’s best chance of the first half came when Juanfran’s shot was blocked and Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno outjumped the waiting Griezmann to deny the Frenchman an easy header in front of goal on 39 minutes.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone was forced into two changes before the break as both winger Saul Niguez and fullback Guilherme Siqueira came off injured.
Leno kept Atletico out with a superb diving reflex save to deny Tiago at close range just before the halftime whistle — which former Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn described as “world class.”
Leverkusen took the lead when Germany winger Karim Bellarabi cut across the face of the goal and his back-heel found Turkey international Calhanoglu, who blasted his shot past Moya from a tight angle on 57 minutes.
Simeone brought on striker Fernando Torres for the final 25 minutes in a bid to get Atletico a crucial away goal.
Having already been booked in the first half, Tiago’s dismissal for a second yellow card gave Leverkusen the numerical advantage, but Atletico kept up the pressure as Leno endured a busy final 20 minutes.