Atletico bid for third Champions League final in four years starts with PSV win

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Atletico Madrid’s bid to reach a third Champions League final in four years got off to a winning start with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over PSV Eindhoven.

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Saul Niguez’s acrobatic strike just before half-time settled an eventful encounter at the Philips Stadion as Atletico claimed a valuable away win in what is a tough-looking Group D.

PSV had the chance to net an immediate equaliser after winning a hugely controversial 45th-minute penalty, but Andres Guardado saw his spot-kick superbly saved by Jan Oblak

Atletico, runners-up to arch-rivals Real in the 2014 and 2016 finals, had beaten PSV in last season’s Round of 16 following a battle that had to be settled by penalties after both legs finished goalless.

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PSV had vowed to avenge that disappointment on Tuesday night and they thought they had been handed a flying start when captain Luuk de Jong headed home in the fifth minute.

However, the home side’s jubilant celebrations were cut short by referee Martin Atkinson, who had seen a foul in the build-up.

If PSV were upset by that decision, their mood would not have improved when Atletico took the lead in the 43rd minute.

Gabi’s right-wing corner made its way through to Saul near the penalty spot and, although his first effort was blocked, the rebound came back to him and he thumped a superb volley into the corner of the net.

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The home side protested to the officials, seemingly upset play was allowed to continue while their defender Davy Propper was prone in the six-yard box with blood gushing from a clash of heads with Atletico’s Jose Gimenez.

The goal stood but the officials were the centre of attention again moments later as PSV won a hugely debatable penalty, Luciano Narsingh going down following a challenge by Gimenez despite there appearing to be no contact.

Gimenez was left stunned as Atkinson pointed to the spot, the Uruguayan centre-back in the process of demanding Narsingh be booked for diving, but Atletico will feel justice was done as Oblak flung himself to his left to turn away Guardado’s well-struck penalty.

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Atletico missed several chances to build on their lead in the second half but PSV were unable to make any headway at the other end, with substitute Gaston Pereiro missing a great chance late on when he headed straight at Oblak in stoppage time.

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