FC Astana held Atletico Madrid to a goalless draw in Tuesday’s Champions League Group C clash in Kazakhstan.
- FC Astana 0, Atletico Madrid 0
- Astana’s defence holds strong
- Torres wastes gilt-edged chance
Atleti would have been heavily favoured to record another comprehensive win after their 4-0 victory in the reverse fixture in Madrid in October.
However, the home side’s defence held strong and, with very little to lose, their enterprising attack threatened to take the lead on several occasions.
FC Astana had the first shot on goal in the sixth minute when Dmitriy Shomko collected in the left of the box, after free kick directed at the far post was over hit, and drilled his shot at Jan Oblak.
Atletico also had their first chance from a set piece, when Astana goalkeeper Nenad Eric punched away a corner in the 11th minute and Tiago’s ferocious follow-up shot was only kept out by a defender sliding in to affect a block.
The visitors kept up the pressure and had another shot blocked in the 15th minute, when some inventive play down the left provided fullback Guilherme Siqueira with space and time in the box.
Backed by their large and vocal home crowd, Astana were giving as good as they got and Congolese forward Junior Kabananga was constant threat from counter attacks. The pacy striker got behind the Atletico defence in wide positions twice in the first 30 minutes, but his final ball was cut out on both occasions.
The home side were nearly caught on the counter themselves in the 33rd minute when Juanfran’s speculative diagonal ball, from around the halfway line, was not dealt with by Astana. The ball bounced through to Fernando Torres at the far post but he failed to get his shot on target.
Atleti bossed the last ten minutes of first half, but were unable to carve out any chances in the face of some resolute defending from Astana.
The hosts were first to threaten again when play resumed, but the Spanish side had the first real chance at a corner in the 54th minute. Centreback Diego Godin climbed highest in a tighly packed penalty area, but his header was directed straight at Eric.
Both sides seemed to take a more conservative approach in the second half, and chances were few and far between as a result.
Atleti manager Diego Simeone responded by sending on Jackson Martinez for Torres in the 64th minute and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco for Saul Niguez ten minutes later.
Though neither made any immediate impact, the changes did seem to reinvigorate Atleti and Antoine Griezmann fired narrowly wide of in the 75th minute after a neat one-two with Koke on the edge of the box.
The home side gradually retreated into a defensive shell and, apart from a few fleeting excursions into opposition territory, spent almost the final 15 minutes in their own half.
Simeone’s charges had one final chance to take the lead, in the third and last minute of stoppage time, but Ferreira-Carrasco’s shot was held by Eric to ensure the match finished as a goalless draw.