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Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 Atletico Madrid: Calhanoglu’s strike gives Germans deserved edge

Germany Soccer Champions League

Leverkusen players celebrate after Leverkusen’s Hakan Calhanoglu, second right, scored the opening goal during the Champions League round of 16 first leg soccer match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Atletico de Madrid on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015 in Leverkusen, Germany. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

AP

Hakan Calhanoglu’s second-half wonder strike snapped Bayer Leverkusen’s 7-match UEFA Champions League knockout round losing streak and will send the Bundesliga club to Spain with a 1-0 lead over Atletico Madrid after the first leg.

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After a significant ‘feeling out’ period that had Atletico struggling to keep up with Bayer’s high-press, Bayer nearly took a deserved 1-0 lead.

Bayer defender Emir Spahic found some space 30 yards out and rattled a shot off the intersection of the right post and the crossbar. Keeper Miguel Moya flew to get a tiny piece of it, but it flew past.

Had Bayer wasted a prime chance to have a home lead, as Atletico looked unlike themselves?

[ RELATED: Champions League schedule ]

Germany Soccer Champions League

Atletico’s goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya jumps for a ball by Leverkusen’s Emir Spahic that hit the crossbar during the Champions League round of 16 first leg soccer match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Atletico de Madrid on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015 in Leverkusen, Germany. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

AP

Then Calhanoglu picked up a backheel from Karim Bellarabi and hammered a strike into the goal. After 57 minutes, the hosts were finally up.

Josep Drmic made a cunning dribble in the 74th minute, but couldn’t double Bayer’s lead.

Atletico had appeared to equalize in the 76th minute when a corner kick was flicked onto an unmarked Fernando Torres, but the goal was disallowed on the grounds that the curving corner went out of bounds pre-flick.

Tiago picked up a second yellow card moments later for a wild slide tackle, and was sent off to further damage the La Liga club’s hopes of tying up the match.

Follow @NicholasMendola