Atletico Madrid unable to capitalise in scoreless draw at PSV
Three quick thoughts from PSV Eindhoven 0-0 Atletico Madrid in Wednesday evening's Champions League last 16 first leg clash.
1. Atletico fail to capitalise
This goalless draw between PSV Eindhoven and Atletico Madrid will have left neither team really happy -- while keeping the tie neatly balanced ahead of the second leg.
Competition outsiders PSV did not look out of place against the 2013-14 finalists, and managed to hold on comfortably even when reduced to 10 men midway through the second half in a game which never really caught fire.
The opening period saw the home team having more of the ball, but the visitors having the better chances. Four times in the first half hour an Atletico player was freed behind the PSV back four, but a mix of poor finishing, good goalkeeping and luck kept the game scoreless.
Into the second half and Diego Godin had the ball in the net with a header from a corner, but Italian referee Daniele Orsato had seen the Atletico centre-back climb all over Mexican marker Hector Moreno. Godin was then involved as PSV were reduced to 10 men when teenage attacker Gaston Pereiro got a second yellow for jumping straight into his fellow Uruguayan.
Diego Simeone sent on another attacker in Angel Correa to try and take advantage of the extra man. Atletico were now dominating possession but not really testing home goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet.
Simeone admitted pre-game that Barcelona's eight-point lead in La Liga means this competition is Atletico's best chance of a trophy this season. And this is not a bad result for Atletico ahead of the return at the Estadio Vicente Calderon on March 15, but considering the circumstances, they really should have won here. Atletico will have to play a lot better should they wish to go further in the competition.
2. Griezmann's poor run continues
Atletico's key attacker Antoine Griezmann had another frustrating night in front of goal -- and his barren run must now be starting to get quite worrying for Colchoneros fans.
Griezmann has not scored in his last five La Liga games, with no shots on target in his previous three outings, and was substituted in Sunday's 0-0 draw at home to Villarreal. He lasted the 90 minutes here, but without ever really looking like finding the net.
The France international had the game's first chance, when he was found by Juanfran's precise pass inside the area, but could not control the ball on his chest. Midway through the first half came a much clearer opportunity, when Luciano Vietto's simple through ball caught the PSV back-line square. Griezmann had time -- maybe too much time -- to think about what he would do. Zoet narrowed the angle and saved well.
The Eredivise champions' back line was being caught square often, and Vietto got the ball past Zoet only for Jeffrey Bruma to hook the ball off the line, while Koke's attempt at a lob ended with the ball landing in the Dutch custodian's hands.
On the hour mark Fernando Torres entered for Vietto, and the 32-year-old soon fired a decent chance wide from 10 yards. Correa also had a shot from close range -- connecting well but catching Bruma right in the face. Griezmann was still toiling up front, showing his frustration in injury time when Orsato ruled he had fouled Zoet challenging for a loose ball.
Atletico only scored once in their four Champions League knockout games last season [against Bayer Leverkusen and Real Madrid]. They need to find more goals from somewhere, and could do with getting Griezmann back to his best.
3. Inexperienced PSV hang tough
In the past, PSV had knocked out both Real Madrid and Barcelona from the European Cup, but these are different times and this was the Dutch club's first UEFA Champions League knockout round fixture for nine years.
Phillip Cocu's side got this far by being strong in front of their own fans, beating Manchester United, CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg in the group stages, and there were signs here of a young team growing in front of a very noisy home support.
After a shaky start, they grew into the game and dominated possession for stretches, with fit again Mexico international Andres Guardado heavily involved. They had a decent penalty shout when Atletio captain Gabi caught Jurgen Locadia inside the box, but the officials said no.
A generally inexperienced Dutch side was finding it hard, though, to turn possession into chances, with young Chelsea loanee Marco van Ginkel not often involved, and suspended top scorer Luuk De Jong badly missed. They had one chance when midfielder Davy Propper found space in the box, but his shot was too close to Jan Oblak -- the only real save the Atletico goalkeeper had to make all night.
Pereiro's silly sending off left his team really up against it, but they showed admirable concentration and organisation to hold out -- with Moreno's wiser old head being especially prominent. Substitutes Jorrit Hendrix and Maxime Lestienne linked up late on, but the latter's volley flew wide.
Cocu had suggested on Tuesday he would take a goalless draw, and then look for an away goal at the Calderon, with De Jong available again. Given his young team had played the final quarter with a man less, he could see this as a job pretty well done.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan