LEVERKUSEN, Germany – Atletico Madrid fell 2-1 to Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday in a match where the visitors had a chance to secure a berth in the Champions League knockout stage.
The outcome leaves the Colchoneros with seven points from four matches. Juventus leads Group D with 10 points, while Lokomotiv Moscow and Bayer each have three.
Atletico needs only one victory in its final two group matches – away to Juve and at home against Lokomotiv – to advance to the round of 16.
For a side whose watchwords are consistency, toughness and daring, Atleti is falling short of the standard its supporters have come to expect since Diego Simeone took over as coach in 2011.
Even with 16 competitive matches under their belt this season, Atletico continues to struggle at the start of games and Wednesday’s contest in Leverkusen was no exception.
The visitors did not create a single scoring chance in the first half, while the usually stalwart Atleti defenders conceded seven corners against a Leverkusen squad who are dangerous on set pieces.
And the seventh corner for the hosts led to a disastrous own goal by Atletico’s Thomas Partey to put the German club ahead 1-0 going into the break.
The Spanish club had only 36 percent possession in the opening period and completed fewer than half as many passes as their opponents.
Atletico have started poorly several times this season, only to turn the match around in the second half, as they did last weekend to steal a point from Sevilla.
But the Colchoneros began the second half on Wednesday much as they ended the first and Leverkusen doubled their lead in the 55th minute with a goal by Kevin Volland.
The home side created several more opportunities before Atletico got their first crack at goal on a Thomas Lemar free kick in the 60th minute that posed no problems for keeper Lukas Hradecky.
Leverkusen went down to 10 men with six minutes left after Nadiem Amiri was sent off on a straight red card.
Alvaro Morata pulled back a goal for Atletico in the 93rd minute, raising hopes for a last-second equalizer.
But when the chance for a second goal materialized, Hradecky denied Morata to seal the win for Leverkusen.