Atletico march into quarters as Oblak shines
MADRID (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak was the hero as the Spanish side reached the Champions League quarter-finals for the fourth year in a row after drawing 0-0 with Bayer Leverkusen in an open last-16 second leg on Wednesday.
Slovenia international Oblak made an outstanding triple save to deny Julian Brandt and Kevin Volland in the second half and he made further impressive stops late in the game to shut out the Germans and secure a 4-2 aggregate success.
Atletico had the better of the first half and it took a top- class save from Oblak's opposite number Bernd Leno to prevent Angel Correa giving the Spaniards the lead before the break, flying to his left to tip away a goalbound shot.
The impressive Correa nearly crafted an outstanding goal in the second half but could not find the target while top scorer Antoine Griezmann also came close to putting Atletico out of sight, sending a classy chip just wide.
Atletico's ruthless counter-attacking in Leverkusen meant the second leg was always going to be less tense than the last time the sides met at the Vicente Calderon in 2015, when the Spaniards sneaked through to the last eight after a penalty shootout.
Playing their first European game under new coach Tayfun Korkut, Leverkusen sought an early advantage and had the chance to do so when Volland broke into the area but flashed a shot beyond the far post.
The Germans had more wayward efforts but Atletico came closer at the other end, first Koke drawing a save from Leno then Correa forcing the Germany international into action.
The most stunning intervention between the posts, however, came from Oblak who made himself big to deny Brandt before getting up immediately to dive in front of Volland's shot and blocking the German forward's follow-up.
Oblak then thwarted Karim Bellarabi on two separate occasions, keeping an exciting end-to-end spectacle goalless.
"It feels great for Atletico to reach the quarter-finals four years in a row, it's very important for us and we have had to fight to get there," said Oblak, who was on the losing side in last year's Champions League final with Atletico against Real Madrid.
"It hasn't been easy at all to get this far four years in a row and I hope we continue to grow as we have done in those years."
(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)