Augusto the great
Since joining Atlético in January, Argentinian international Augusto Fernández has made a name for himself as a tough-tackling, no-nonsense midfielder alongside skipper Gabi. If it took him a few games to develop an understanding with his team-mates, he has now become a fixture in the middle of the park – and this was his best display yet for the Rojiblancos.
The 30-year-old covered every blade of grass, charging down shots, breaking up play and getting in the right place at the right time. His efforts helped subdue an opposition midfield containing Arturo Vidal, Xabi Alonso and Thiago Alcántara – no mean feat. It was a world-class performance on the biggest stage.
Bayern’s unhappy hunting ground
This is the third season running that Josep Guardiola’s Bayern side have been drawn to face a Spanish team in the semi-finals, with the first leg away on each occasion. The German champions lost 1-0 across town at Real Madrid in 2014, then 12 months ago were blown away 3-0 by Barcelona. This year it was Atlético’s turn.
With Guardiola promising that his charges would chase an away goal, Diego Simeone played the Bavarians at their own game, attacking early on and taking the initiative – and then the lead. Bayern huffed and puffed, but could not blow the house down. Yet again, the precious away goal they so desperately sought proved elusive.
Home comfort for German side?
With the visitors unable to find the away goal, the emphasis is very much on Bayern to come out and attack in next Tuesday’s return match. Tonight was only the fourth time in 23 UEFA Champions League outings they have failed to score and they have managed 74 in the Bundesliga already this term – cause for hope. So too is the spirit they showed against Juventus in the last 16.
Weighing against that, however, is the knowledge that at this point in the past two campaigns they could not overturn a first-leg defeat in Spain. In fact, their rivals went on to lift the trophy both times, which is ominous indeed. Then there is Jan Oblak and Europe’s meanest defence: Atlético having shipped just 16 goals in 35 Liga games this season.
Saúl Ñíguez making EURO 2016 case
The Spain Under-21 man has enjoyed a stellar campaign in the capital, netting nine times in 42 appearances in all competitions. Calls are growing for Vicente del Bosque to include the right-sided midfielder in his UEFA EURO 2016 squad, despite the 21-year-old being untested at senior international level.
He described his latest Vicente Calderón strike as “the most important goal of my career and the best too”, yet that was merely one part of an impressive all-round contribution. Guardiola says “Spanish football has a great new talent” and it is impossible to disagree. Worryingly for Bayern, Simeone reckons there is much more to come.