Simeone purrs over his plan played to perfection

Antoine Griezmann watching his shot hit the back of the net via the crossbar to put Atletico two goals up in their 4-2 defeat of Bayer Leverkusen, as the beaten Bernd Leno can only watch on helplessly.
Antoine Griezmann watching his shot hit the back of the net via the crossbar to put Atletico two goals up in their 4-2 defeat of Bayer Leverkusen, as the beaten Bernd Leno can only watch on helplessly.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LEVERKUSEN • Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone praised his team for perfectly executing his game plan in their 4-2 Champions League victory at Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday and said the scoreline should 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 the German side's erratic backline.

"We could even have won by a higher 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.

  • 13

    Number of goals Antoine Griezmann has netted in the Champions League for Atletico Madrid, making him last year's finalists' all-time top scorer in the competition.

"That is 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."

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

Leverkusen scored through Karim Bellarabi and an own goal from Atletico defender Stefan Savic, while Kevin Gameiro and Fernando Torres scored the other two goals for the away side.

Griezmann's goal, his 13th Champions League goal and fourth this season, also made the Frenchman his club's top scorer in the competition.

"For us it was an unusual game. We did it perfectly in the first half. We were intelligent and smart," Simeone added. "They came back in the second half but we kept at our plan until the end."

Atletico, 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 their return leg next month.

"The important thing for us is that we continue to improve," Simeone 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."

Despite the defeat, Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt praised his side for putting up a good performance.

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

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

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2017, with the headline 'Simeone purrs over his plan played to perfection'. Print Edition | Subscribe