Pep Guardiola is departing Bayern Munich in the summer, but his legacy in Germany has yet to be written. The Champions League semifinal is the main topic for the last chapters, and Atlético Madrid did not provide the coach with much hope for a happy ending. Atléti battered Bayern for an hour and a half of football, Saúl Ñíguez's early dagger providing the Spanish title chasers with a 1-0 win in the first leg.
Knowing his touchline companion had a lot to lose, Diego Simeone geared up his side to frustrate Bayern all night. Ñíguez's goal encapsulated that, slithering through four overeager Bayern challenges to find the opening goal just 11 minutes in. Bayern extended their knockout stage winless streak away from home to seven games, and face a one goal deficit with no away goal to bank on when they return to Munich next Tuesday.
The match featured the fearless against the fearful. Atlético Madrid came out of the gates with relentless pressure, its defenders covering all acres of the field and its attackers running directly at their guests. Every loose ball was winding up at an Atléti player's feet, and Bayern had to frantically win back possession before their hosts could create anything from their turnovers.
Bayern's approach appeared much more fragile, almost afraid of moving the ball for fear of giving it away. Playing in their first Champions League semifinal, Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman could not fool the Atléti defenders as they could others, and just a mishit touch was enough for Juanfran, Ñíguez, Felipe Luis and Koke to push them off the ball. Bayern tried to meet Atletico at the point of attack, but Xabi Alonso and Arturo Vidal slid into rash challenges trying to urgently win the ball back.
The cautiousness eventually caught Bayern, and Ñíguez took advantage of the Bavarian flimsiness. The Atléti midfielder took the ball in midfield, and a quick sequence of moves saw Thiago, Alonso, Bernat, and Alaba all lose their balance. Ñiguez took advantage of his wide open window and curled a left-footed slice off the far post and into the back of the net, a shot Manuel Neuer had no chance to stop.
After the eruption from the Vicente Calderón crowd, Atléti settled back into their defensive element. Bayern may have controlled the possession, but Atléti were controlling the play, Gabi punishing the Bavarians every time they tried to move in midfield. Bayern did manage to pry Atléti away from their goal, but panic caused the chances to slip away. Douglas and Coman even combined for what looked to be a promising break, but Coman's slight hesitation was enough for Felipe Luis and his tenacious teammates to catch up. Coman's ensuing cross barely beat Felipe Luis, but the ball went straight into the arms of Jan Oblak.
Whatever confidence Bayern brought with them they unpacked in the second half, and chances started to come in flurries. Alaba, playing higher in midfield than the first half, jolted a bolt of fear into the Vicente Calderón when his shot from distance clanked off the crossbar. Martínez soon followed with a free header from a corner that forced Oblak to the turf. Douglas and Philipp Lahm even combined with perhaps one of the longest one-twos in football in the 70th minute, but the Brazilian could not put his flick on target. Vidal had another good whack himself soon after, smacking a shot from the right wing that Oblak had to deflect away.
Their attacks were sizzling, but Bayern were like Sisyphus rolling a rock up a hill; every time they appeared close to scoring, the rock would come tumbling back down. The rock nearly crushed Bayern when Antoine Griezmann broke with Fernando Torres with a quarter of an hour to go. Torres' shot clanged off of the far post, and Neuer snuffed Koke's follow-up. Torres and his teammates held their heads in shock of the missed opportunity, but their dismay quickly turned into satisfaction as they secured the 1-0 win.
Atlético Madrid (1-0) Bayern Munich
Atléti: Saúl Ñiguez (11')
Atléti XI: Oblak – Juanfran, Gimenez, Savić, Felipe Luís – Koke, Fernández, Gabi, Ñíguez (Partei 85') – Griezmann, Torres
Bayern XI: Neuer – Lahm, Martínez, Alaba, Bernat (Benatia 77') – Thiago (Müller 70'), Alonso, Vidal – Coman (Ribéry 64'), Lewandowski, Douglas