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SAUL STRIKE GIVES SIMEONE'S MEN THE ADVANTAGE


An incredible dribble and fine finish from
Saul Niguez was the difference between the
two sides as the hosts took the lead in the
Champions League semi-final tie
Saul Niguez scored one of the great
Champions League goals to give Atletico
Madrid a 1-0 semi-final lead over Bayern
Munich after a pulsating first leg at the
Vicente Calderon.

Bayern coach Pep Guardiola declared before
the match that his decorated spell in
Bavaria will be defined by how this European
campaign concludes following last-
four losses to Real Madrid and Barcelona in
the past two seasons. And it could be another
tale of misery against teams from his
homeland for the Manchester City-bound
tactician, who could only look on as Saul
crowned his breakthrough season with a
sensational solo goal in the 11th minute.
Bayern were second best as the tenacious
brilliance of Diego Simeone's side held sway
in the first half.

The visitors looked to mount a response after
the break as David Alaba struck the crossbar
from long range, while Fernando Torres was
denied by a post as Atletico sought a greater
cushion.

Real Madrid's 0-0 draw at Manchester City
on Tuesday means a repeat of 2014's all-
Madrid final is firmly on the cards.
Guardiola opted to leave Thomas Muller and
Franck Ribery on the bench and Bayern
began the match with wingers Douglas Costa
and Kingsley Coman hugging their touchlines
in an attempt to stretch Atletico's compact
defensive set-up.

The plan did little to unsettle the hosts
during the opening stages as Torres and
Antoine Griezmann had shots blocked before
Saul marked the occasion in truly great
style.

The Spain Under-21 international eased
away from Thiago Alcantara in midfield and
skipped nimbly through a pair of challenges
from Juan Bernat and Xabi Alonso.

That brought Saul into the penalty area,
where a step over engineered space inside
Alaba to curl a left-footed shot in off the
base of Manuel Neuer's right-hand post.
Bayern nearly had an instant response, but
centre-back Jose Gimenez atoned for a
horribly sliced clearance by diverting Arturo
Vidal's header to safety from under the
Atletico crossbar.

Costa almost caught out home goalkeeper Jan
Oblak by whipping a free-kick from the right
into the side-netting, but Bayern were
struggling against relentless opponents, who
should have doubled their advantage before
the half hour mark.

Griezmann raced in behind the visitors'
backline, but his control deserted him and
Javi Martinez could apply pressure before
the France star prodded a shot at Neuer's
left boot.

Bayern drove Atletico deeper at the start of
the second period, although it was a pattern
of play with which the Liga side appeared
comfortable.

They had a scare in the 54th minute when
Alaba almost matched Saul in terms of
inspirational excellence – the defender
sauntering forward before sending a
sumptuous 35-yard strike cannoning onto
the frame of the goal.

Centre-back partner Martinez tested Oblak
from a corner soon afterwards and Bayern
striker Robert Lewandowski created space to
lash across the face of goal in the 64th
minute.

Guardiola summoned Ribery and Muller
either side of Costa lifting Philipp Lahm's
raking pass on to the roof of the net and
Oblak pushed a trademark rasping drive
from Vidal to safety.

Almost inevitably, Atletico sprung into action
with one of their rapier counter-attacks –
Griezmann feeding Torres to shoot against
the post with the outside of his right boot.
It was another reminder to Guardiola of the
stern task awaiting his side at the Allianz
Arena next week.