The Germans score a precious away goal, but the late winner from the Argentine gives the hosts a slim one-goal lead ahead of the return match
Atletico Madrid needed a last-gasp goal from Eduardo Salvio to beat a resilient Hannover side 2-1 at the Vicente Calderon in this Europa League quarter-final encounter.
Radamel Falcao put the Spanish side ahead early on with a free header, Mame Biram Diouf grabbed an equaliser before half-time, but Salvio nicked the victory for the hosts in the closing moments.
The home side started the match in complete control, dominating possession and territory. This pressure did not take long to show. Just nine minutes into the game, Gabi lofted a free-kick in from the centre of pitch, and Falcao was free in the box to glance a header past Ron-Robert Zieler, his seventh goal in Europe this season.
Hannover were looking despondent, and finding it hard to even venture into their opposition’s half. Indeed, Atletico nearly went further ahead with another free-kick from Gabi. The ball was curled into the box from the right, yet Mario Suarez headed onto the roof of the net. Soon after, Adrian Lopez had some space on the right of the box, but he fired the ball wide of the far post.
Falcao then had a big chance for a second goal of the game. A cross was floated into the box, the ball hung up nicely for the Colombian striker, but he could only head over the bar.
Los Rojiblancos were made to pay for not taking their chances. Completely against the run of play, Diouf brought his side level. Lars Stindl sent in a pinpoint cross from the right, and Diouf slid in to poke the ball into the net with his left foot, for a precious away goal.
The hosts came out strongest in the second-half. Gabi drove forward and teed up Falcao, whose shot flashed past the far post. Adrian then had a free header from a corner, however he could not position himself appropriately, and his effort was off target.
Diego Simeone’s team were beginning to look frustrated and Die Roten were sensing a historic victory in Madrid.
Diouf so nearly put the visitors in front on the night after Didier Ya Konan whipped in an impressive cross, and Diouf connected well, bringing a crucial reaction save from Chelsea loanee Thibaut Courtois.
Diouf was on form and looking confident. This was shown as he controlled the ball and attempted an audacious volley from outside the box, the ball sailing wide of the target.
Madrid were failing to live up to the performance that they showed in the first half-hour in the game, Hannover were growing more comfortable as the match went on, seemingly settling for a draw.
Salvio had other ideas as with minutes left, he held off a challenge and curled a delightful shot into the top right-hand corner of the goal. Then in stoppage time Diego nearly made it three with his volley being saved well by Zieler.
With both teams labouring in their respective domestic leagues in eighth place, winning this competition could be their only way into Europe next season. This tie remains in the balance, it is all to play for in the return leg at Hannover next week.