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Advantage Atletico but Haller gives Dortmund hope

Updated: 2024-04-12 09:14
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Rodrigo De Paul celebrates scoring Atletico Madrid's opening goal in a 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday. [Photo/Reuters]

MADRID — Atletico Madrid moved closer to returning to the Champions League semifinals with a 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Atletico took a first-half lead with goals by Rodrigo De Paul and Samuel Lino, as the host outplayed Dortmund during most of the match. However, the German team stayed alive thanks to a late goal by substitute Sebastien Haller.

Dortmund threatened in the end and twice hit the woodwork in the final minutes.

The second leg will be played next Tuesday in Germany.

"We will be ready and hopefully we can put Atletico back in the semifinals of the Champions League," De Paul said.

"We will give all we have to make sure that happens, but we know that it's going to be complicated."

Atletico hasn't made it to the last four in Europe's top club competition since 2017, when it lost to city rival Real Madrid. The Spanish club has won three of its last six quarterfinals.

Dortmund, the 1997 European champion, is looking to return to the semifinals for the first time since 2012-13, when it lost the final to Bayern Munich.

"We have to live with this result today," Dortmund captain Emre Can said.

"It's not easy to play football here because they defend very well. There were phases where they completely overpowered us in the duels. So we'll take the 2-1 and everything is open for next week."

Atletico needed only four minutes to open the scoring at the Metropolitano Stadium, with De Paul taking advantage of a mistake by the Dortmund defense to steal possession and find the net from inside the area.

Lino doubled the lead in the 32nd after an assist from Antoine Griezmann, who was held scoreless again but was named the man of the match.

"I'm not sure you can say we were superior because in the second half they had the ball and pushed us back," Griezmann said. "There were moments when we could have scored a third but the truth is that we have suffered a lot in the second half."

Dortmund improved a bit in the second half and dominated possession, but it struggled to create many scoring opportunities against Atletico's solid defense.

The host had a few good chances to add to its first-half lead but failed to capitalize on them, then saw Haller — who has played few minutes in the Champions League this season because of injury — pull Dortmund closer with a shot from inside the area in the 81st.

It was the former West Ham and Ajax forward's first Champions League goal with the German club.

"We made too many mistakes, but more important to me is the reaction we showed," Dortmund coach Edin Terzic said.

"In the end, a draw wouldn't have been undeserved. Everything remains open."

Dortmund hit the crossbar with a long-range shot from English winger Jamie Bynoe-Gittens in the 87th and a header by Julian Brandt deep into stoppage time.

"When you are up 2-0, it's normal for the other team to start playing better," Argentina international De Paul said. "We had our chances to score more goals as well. Any win is always positive."

Atletico has won 29 of its last 32 home games across all tournaments.

The result kept Atletico unbeaten in 18 knockout-stage games at home in the Champions League — with its last defeat coming against Ajax in the quarterfinals in 1997.

Dortmund has won only one of its last 11 away matches in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Defender Mats Hummels, 35, made his 500th appearance for Dortmund.

Tempers flare

The result earned Atletico head coach Diego Simeone his 50th Champions League win.

In the second half, Simeone became involved in a heated touchline incident with Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl.

In a highly charged atmosphere at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, tempers flared when Atletico launched a counterattack with Dortmund midfielder Can lying on the ground with an injury.

Simeone and Kehl squared up, with the Atletico boss appearing to twice push Kehl before they were separated.

Asked about the confrontation, Kehl said: "We shouldn't talk about the scene, but about what happened on the pitch. We played a very good game in the second half.

"Emotions come together in this situation. Tonight was about standing your ground, and that was the case in this situation.

"It wasn't anything more than that. It was about an incident on the pitch. He knows that, I know that and then it was done. Let's leave it at that."

Dortmund head coach Terzic was also keen to play down the flashpoint, saying: "That's part of it. You not only need 11 players on the pitch but also all the boys on the bench.

"The fact that things can get hot in the coaching zone is nothing new and doesn't surprise us."

Dortmund returns to action away to Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Bundesliga on Saturday, with Atletico hosting Girona in La Liga on the same day.

Agencies Via Xinhua



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