Saul Niguez wonder-goal gives Atletico Madrid the edge
Dazzling strike earns Diego Simeone's men victory over Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final
Atletico Madrid 1 Bayern Munich 0
It took a goal of sheer brilliance from Saul Niguez to beat Bayern Munich and give Atletico Madrid the advantage after the first-leg of a tight Champions League semi-final.
His dazzling strike was the only goal of either semi-final first leg, but deserves to stand alone.
The visitors saw little danger when Niguez received the ball inside the centre circle after ten minutes of the match but the midfielder had only one thing on his mind, and as he surged goalwards he danced his way through the tackles of Thiago Alcantara, Juan Bernat and Xabi Alonso. Inside the Bayern penalty area, the 21-year-old glanced up, picked his spot, and curled the ball past the despairing right hand of Manuel Neuer and into the bottom corner of the Bayern goal.
It was a moment of magic from the Spaniard, one that earned high praise from Atletico coach Diego Simeone. "Saul is enjoying a brilliant spell at the moment," he said. "It fills you with joy to see everything that is happening for him. He deserves it all because of the work he does, the persistence he has shown, the motivation he has. And there's more to come."
Bayern came hard at their hosts after the setback but the team that has scored more Champions League goals this season than any other side - 28 in ten matches - couldn't find a way past the Atletico defence. Even without the injured Diego Godin, the Spaniards held firm, displaying the defensive organisation that has seen them concede just five goals in this season's tournament.
Bayern came close on a couple of occasions in the second-half with David Alaba rattling the crossbar with a long-range effort and Arturo Vidal forcing a sharp save from Jan Oblak, but Atletico didn't buckle and they almost pinched a second goal late on when Fernando Torres hit the post from a corner.
The result sets up a mouthwatering clash at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday with Bayern beaten only once in 24 matches in front of their home fans. But coach Pep Guardiola acknowledged that his side will have to step up if they want to reach the final on 28 May. "We have to play at a different pace in the second leg," he said. "Their goal was brilliant, but it came from our mistake, we kept standing off him."
Guardiola left his joint-top scorer in Europe this season, Thomas Muller, on the bench in order to strengthen his midfield, and when asked he said he'd no regrets. "We had enough chances here against Atletico. Normally you do not get that many. We played well and had enough chances to score."
Muller is likely to start the second leg as Bayern chase goals and Guardiola told reporters how Bayern can turn round the tie. "In the return match we have to play very smart," he explained. "We need patience."