Late Morata goal gives Atlético 1-0 win over Leverkusen
MADRID (AP) — The crowd was growing increasingly impatient as Atlético Madrid headed for yet another disappointing home draw.
The minutes passed and Diego Simeone’s team struggled to create chances against Bayer Leverkusen, the last-place team in Group D of the Champions League.
A victory would keep Atlético at the top of the group, and the Spanish club finally got the spark it needed when Simeone called Álvaro Morata off the bench with about 20 minutes left in the game at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Eight minutes after he replaced Jorge “Koke” Resurrección, Morata scored the winner that gave Atlético a 1-0 victory against Leverkusen.
Juventus later joined Atlético at the top of the group by coming from behind at home to beat Lokomotiv Moscow 2-1. Atlético and Juventus have seven points each, while Lokomotiv stayed on three points.
Leverkusen, which has won only one of its last 16 Champions League matches, has zero points after three straight losses.
Atlético had needed a late equalizer to salvage a 2-2 draw in the home opener against Juventus, and Simeone’s team was also coming off three consecutive draws in the Spanish league, including two at home.
“We did well, but there are some areas in which we need to improve, especially in front of the opponent’s goal,” Simeone said. “It’s something difficult to do, but we have to work to create more scoring chances in these situations.”
Simeone put Morata into the game to help Diego Costa in the attack, and it didn’t take long before he headed in a well-placed cross by left back Renan Lodi in the 78th. Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky got his hand to the ball but couldn’t keep it from going in.
Atlético’s best chance until the goal was a shot by Héctor Herrera that deflected off a defender and prompted a difficult save by Hradecky in the 64th.
The result extended Atlético’s unbeaten streak at home in European competitions to 12 matches. It has lost only one of its last 20 Champions League games at home, a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea in 2017.
Atlético next visits Leverkusen, while Juventus will play at Lokomotiv Moscow.
Leverkusen had lost 2-1 to Lokomotiv at home and 3-0 to Juventus in Italy.
“It was 90 minutes against a very dangerous team and we did well to win the ball as often as we did, which is what we’ve come to expect of ourselves,” Leverkusen’s Kevin Volland said. “We had space to exploit, but when you don’t use it, then Atlético can hit you with one chance and one goal.”
Atlético defender José María Giménez had to be replaced because of an apparent muscle injury less than 15 minutes into the match.
The teams had last met in 2016-17, when Atlético eliminated Leverkusen in the Round of 16 of the Champions League.