Football

Atletico get an 'A' from Simeone

Rojiblancos' coach praises his players, adding that they could have scored more

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone praised his team for perfectly executing his game plan in their 4-2 Champions League victory at Bayer Leverkusen yesterday morning (Singapore time), adding that the scoreline could have been even higher.

Atletico ripped the Leverkusen defence to shreds with a string of lethal counter-attacks in the last-16 first leg, making the most of an erratic backline.

"We could have won by an even bigger margin, but their goalkeeper pulled off two outstanding saves to deny (Antoine) Griezmann," said Simeone.

"It is important to have belief when you play away from home, and I thought we had that in abundance.

"We thought before the game that if we attacked down our left side, we would cause their right-footed defenders problems.

"That was exactly what we did. Leverkusen fought their way back into the game in the second half but overall it is a very satisfying evening for us."

FIGHT BACK

Atletico took a two-goal lead through Griezmann and Saul Niguez and scored again each time the Bundesliga club fought back and cut the deficit.

Griezmann's goal, his 13th in the Champions League, also made him the all-time top scorer for his club in this competition.

"For us, it was an unusual game. We did it perfectly in the first half. We were intelligent and smart," Simeone said.

"They came back in the second half but we kept at our plan until the end."

The Spanish side also hit the woodwork and Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno denied them twice more in one-on-one situations to give the German side a sliver of hope for the return leg on March 15.

We thought that if we attacked down our left side, we would cause their rightfooted defenders problems. Atletico coach Diego Simeone

Atletico, beaten finalists in 2014 and 2016, are now eyeing their ninth last-eight appearance while Leverkusen, who have never advanced past this stage, have their work cut out for next month.

But Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt was pleased to see his side display fighting spirit till the end.

"We showed passion and readiness to fight," he told Sky.

"We had a very good 15 minutes towards the end, where the whole stadium got behind us."

Meanwhile, his counterpart Simeone warned Atletico's players against over-confidence in the return leg, and to improve defensively.

He said: "It is important not to concede that many goals at this stage of the tournament, so that is something we need to work on.

"Leverkusen have nothing to lose in the second leg, so we need to be careful.

"Even so, we can be very pleased with our efforts this evening." - WIRE SERVICES

Champions Leagueatletico madridGermany