Manuel Veth –
Atlético Madrid v Leverkusen – October, 22 – Estadio Metropolitano, Madrid
For Bayer Leverkusen, this was a must-win game if they wanted to keep their round of 16 aspirations alive. With that in mind, Leverkusen head coach Peter Bosz abandoned his three-man defence and started in, what is for him, an unconventional 4-2-3-1 formation. The formation gave Bayer more stability and restricted Atlético. As a result, it was a cagey affair in the first half without any real goal chances on either side of the pitch.
The game finally started to somewhat open up around the 55-minute mark, when Sven Bender had to make a last-ditch defensive effort to clear the ball after a long throw-in before the ready Koke. Shortly after, Diego Costa missed a free header in the box. Finally, in the 78th minute, Atlético scored. A cross from Renan Lodi found Álvaro Morata unmarked, and the striker headed the ball across the line. Leverkusen then pushed for an equaliser but could not find a way through Atlético’s defence.
Atlético Madrid v Leverkusen – Three Stars
Álvaro Morata (Atlético Madrid)
The striker came on in the second half and broke the deadlock of what had been a boring game up to this point. Left wide open by his marker, his header was too powerful for Lukas Hradecky in Leverkusen’s goal.
Renan Lodi (Atlético Madrid)
Renan Lodi provided the assist to Morata’s goal. Left wide open by Leverkusen’s defence, the Brazilian broke forward and provided a perfect cross for the opening goal. Lodi won four of his eight ground duels and had 61 touches.
Sven Bender (Bayer Leverkusen)
Sven Bender had a solid game at centre-back. Brought in to provide some stability Sven, together with his brother Lars, was supposed to add some much-needed steel to Bayer’s defence. On balance, Bayer were much improved defensively even if Die Werkself lost the game. Unfortunately, for Bender, his night ended with an injury and had to come off in the 92nd minute.
GOALS: 1-0 (Morata, 78’)
The result is devastating for Bayer Leverkusen. With three defeats in the first three Champions League games, Die Werkself is all but eliminated from the Champions League.
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At this stage, even qualification for the round of 32 of the Europa League will be a monumental task, given that Bayer lost the opening game against Lokomotiv Moscow. Meanwhile, Atlético have made a big step towards the next round of the competition after two wins and one draw in the first three games.
Atlético Madrid v Leverkusen – Line-ups
Oblak – Renan Lodi, Felipe, Gimenez (Hermoso, 15′), Trippier – Saul Niguez, Thomas, Herrera, Koke (Morata, 70′) – Diego Costa, Correa (Lemar, 63′)
Hradecky – L. Bender, S. Bender (Dragović, 92′), Tah, Weiser – Demirbay (Alario, 84′), Baumgartlinger – Amiri, Havertz (Paulinho, 76′), Bellarabi – Volland
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others, contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently splits his time between Victoria, BC, and Munich, Germany. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.