Antoine Griezmann comes out on top vs Chicharito as Atleti take control

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Atletico Madrid aren’t supposed to do six-goal thrillers.

Diego Simeone’s side have made two of the last three UEFA Champions League finals thanks largely to a watertight defence.

Only three times in their last 29 UCL outings had Atleti given up more than one goal in a single match, and they arrived in Germany on Tuesday for their last 16 first-leg clash with Leverkusen having conceded just twice all tournament.

So if they were to concede twice to a Leverkusen side that had managed just eight goals in their six matches of the competition so far, there was bound to be good reason. 

Somewhat uncharacteristically, Simeone went for it at the BayArena, unleashing what at times resembled a 4-2-4 to maximise the ruthlessness of a counter-attacking style that has brought the club such success.

With a whiff of goals in the Rhine air, all eyes turned to the deadliest slingers on the field as Chicharito and his Nike Mercurial Superfly went toe-to-toe with Antoine Griezmann and Puma evoSPEED SL-S II 17 in a boot-battle shootout at dawn.

And it was Griezmann who drew first, offering a much-needed boost to the evoSPEED which sits a full seven places behind the Mercurial in the in the INTERSPORT Football Boot Ranking for the Champions League.

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Leverkusen were on an eight-match unbeaten run in the UCL but were blown away in the first-half as Atletico aimed squarely at the flanks and fired with everything they had.

“We knew we could cause problems on their right side,” said Simeone. “We also targeted [their left-back] Wendell – and it worked.”

Griezmann let off a warning shot as early as the 12th minute, exchanging passes with Kevin Gameiro to waltz through the Leverkusen defence and force a fine stop out of Bernd Leno.

Some 13 minutes later the France international was less forgiving, collecting a pass from Gameiro to send Leno the wrong way and build on Saul Niguez’s opener moments earlier.

That strike saw Griezmann become Atleti’s all-time top scorer in the Champions League/European Cup with 13 goals, overtaking club legend Luis Aragones (12).

And Griezmann almost had the tie over inside 30 minutes, again linking brilliantly with Gameiro before a sprawling Leno somehow managed to send the ball bouncing up and over the crossbar.

Time and again Griezmann led the Atleti charge, linking superbly with the magnificent Gameiro as they sprang forward on one break after another. 

Some unusually sloppy defending then let Leverkusen back into the game, however, as Karim Bel-larabi pulled one back before Stefan Savic deflected the ball into his own net, but Gameiro then struck for the visitors and Griezmann was given a rest for the final 12 minutes with his side 3-2 up.

All the while, Chicharito had been a bystander on the night he equaled Rafa Marquez’s record as the Mexican player with most appearances in the competition (45). 

But his big moment would eventually arrive. With ten minutes remaining, he latched onto a low cross, turned brilliantly and pulled the trigger, but his shot was cleared almost off the goal line by Filipe Luis.

Chicharito and Leverkusen would pay heavy price for that misfire, as substitute Fernando Torres all but settled the tie with Atleti’s fourth on 86 minutes.

The evoSPEED, which sits eighth in the overall rankings across all of Europe’s top leagues, has some way to go as it attempts to climb the INTERSPORT Football Boot Ranking, but Griezmann will cer-tainly be doing his bit to fire it back up the table.

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