Atletico Madrid blew their chance to put Champions League knockout stage qualification to bed on Wednesday evening, slumping to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen. 


Leverkusen were by far the better team in the first half and finally made their dominance count in the 41st minute, courtesy of Thomas Partey's comical own goal. As a cleared corner was sent back into the penalty area, the Ghanaian got his header completely wrong and watched it sail beyond Jan Oblak to gift Leverkusen a deserved lead. 


The warning signs should have been there for a below-par Atletico defence, Felipe turning one of many Leverkusen corners onto his own bar just minutes earlier.

FBL-EUR-C1-LEVERKUSEN-ATLETICO

Diego Simeone made a bold change on 52 minutes, bringing the attacking Thomas Lemar on for left-back Renan Lodi. 


Ironically, it led to Leverkusen doubling their lead just minutes later. Koke temporarily dropped into defence but got his positioning all wrong, offering Karim Bellarabi all the time and space in the world to cross for Kevin Volland's finish. 


Leverkusen almost had a third - Atletico yet again gifting corners and failing to deal with them - when an inswinger from Kerem Demirbay was flicked on and Oblak clawed it off his line. A melee between the players ensued and the referee issued four yellow cards once it died down. He was forced to reach for a red card on 84 minutes as Nadiem Amiri recklessly slid through Santiago Arias on the touchline.

Kevin Volland

Alvaro Morata pulled a goal back deep into stoppage time, controlling Partey's through ball and striking beyond Lukáš Hrádecký, before drawing a fine save from the Leverkusen goalkeeper less than a minute later. An equaliser would have been undeserved and flattered an abject Atleti's blushes.


Bayer Leverkusen


Player Ratings


Starting XI: Hradecky (7); Weiser (7), Tah (7), Bender (8), Wendell (7); Demirbay (8*), Aranguiz (7); Bellarabi (7), Havertz (8), Amiri (6); Volland (7).


SubstitutesBaumgartlinger (7), Retsos (5), Dragovic (5).


ATLETICO MADRID


Key Talking Point


Despite winning their previous two Champions League fixtures, ​Atleti had drawn five of their previous six La Liga games as their goalscoring woes continue - Los Rojiblancos have scored just 12 goals in as many domestic matches thus far.


It's easy to see why, as Atleti showed very little attacking intent in the first half at the BayArena. They sat deep, allowed Leverkusen 64% of possession and tried to play on the counter attack. What actually played out was a failure to link their defence with attack and they invited plenty of Leverkusen pressure on the edge of their own penalty box.


The corner stats said it all, Bayer winning seven and their opponents zero. Each set piece seemed to be a little more effective, Atleti failed to get the hint and they deservedly headed in for half time a goal behind. 

The decision to replace Lodi with Lemar - as opposed to either Saul or Koke who were miles from their best - unsettled the Atleti defence just long enough for Volland to score and Simeone has to take the lion's share of the blame. After conceding just three goals in ten previous games in all competitions, Los Rojiblancos had shipped two in just 55 minutes.


This bizarre tactical switch also failed to change the course of the game and Simeone had no answer to Leverkusen's energy, dominance or speed of play. It left many questioning his team selection, game management and even whether he'd taken Atleti as far as he could. 

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Player Ratings


Starting XI: Oblak (6); Arias (7), Felipe (6), Hermoso (6), Lodi (5); Correa (6), Thomas (6), Saul (5), Koke (5); Morata (6), Costa (5)


Substitutes: Lemar (7*), Vitolo (6), Herrera (5)


STAR PLAYER - It wasn't difficult to be Los Rojiblancos' best player on Wednesday evening. It was an abject performance from a team whose defenders played poorly, midfielders overrun and strikers starved of service.


Thomas Lemar might have played for less than 45 minutes, but he provided some movement off the ball and tried to get Atleti passing the ball with a little more tempo. 


He adopted a free role and dropped into whichever space was available to create attacking moves, but sadly none of them came to anything. A smart free-kick and floated ball over the top for Angel Correa were the highlights for a player who will be confident of retaining his place for the weekend's fixture with Espanyol. 



Looking Ahead

Diego Simeone

Diego Simeone's side are about to enter a tricky run of fixtures, resuming La Liga action by welcoming Espanyol to Wanda Metropolitano before an away fixture with surprise package Granada. Atletico then face Juventus away in the Champions League ahead of a home clash with title rivals ​Barcelona.


Bayer Leverkusen face Wolfsburg and Freiburg in the Bundesliga, before an away Champions League tie with Lokomotiv Moscow.