Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola conceded his side had paid a heavy price for a slow start as Saul Niguez’s sensational 11th minute solo effort handed Atletico Madrid a slender 1-0 from their Champions League semi-final, first leg on Wednesday.
The German champions dominated possession, but struggled to create chances as Atletico held out for their 33rd clean sheet of the season to take a huge step towards their second final in three years.
“We had talked before the game about how Atletico tend to start well,” said Guardiola, who will leave Bayern to join Manchester City at the start of next season.
“It is not a great result for us. It is always unpleasant to have not scored an away goal, but we still have 90 minutes.”
Bayern also lost the first leg of their semi-final in Spain to Real Madrid and Barcelona in the previous two years of Guardiola’s tenure.
And despite being on the verge of a third German title in as many years in Munich, Guardiola’s men must turn the tide if he is to avoid the embarrassment of leaving for Manchester without having conquered Europe.
“In the Champions League you need to use the full 90 minutes, which we didn’t manage here and didn’t play well for the first 15 minutes.
“We have to play more intelligently in the return match, we need patience and we only need a goal to take the game to extra time.”
Bayern captain Philipp Lahm also lamented Bayern’s inability to score an away goal and was far from happy with the state of Atletico’s stodgy pitch.
“We didn’t think we’d have so many chances to score in the second half as we did, but we didn’t use them.
“You have to use them in games like this, but we still have 90 minutes to come with the fans behind us to try and turn the game around.
“At home, the pitch will be watered, the ball will roll better and we’ll get our passing game going.”
– ‘Beautiful goal’ -By contrast, Atletico were jubilant after 21-year-old Niguez announced his arrival on the European stage with what he described as the “most beautiful and most important goal” of his career.
Niguez eased past four Bayern challenges before curling left-footed in off the far post.
“I was dribbling with the ball, I saw that I’d got by two opponents so when I got into the area I thought about getting it onto my stronger foot, and because it was on my left, I placed it,” he said.
“It’s the most beautiful and most important goal I’ve scored.”
Despite being under the cosh for almost the entire second half, Atletico were inches away from doubling their advantage when Fernando Torres struck the post 15 minutes from time.
“It was a fantastic night and I’m happy for all Atletico fans,” said Torres.
“We’ve got what we wanted which was to get the scoreline in our favour and we have the second leg to come.
“We suffered and kept suffering, kept fighting, that’s what we do.
“Bayern have a level few teams have but we kept on doing our thing.”