Atletico reach 4th straight Champions League quarters

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Madrid (AP) — Jan Oblak made one great stop.  Then another.  And another.  All within a few seconds.

Oblak’s spectacular triple-save midway through the second half helped Atletico Madrid draw 0-0 with Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday and reach the Champions League quarterfinals for the fourth straight season.

Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak makes a save during the Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Atletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, March 15. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak makes a save during the Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Atletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, March 15. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

“Sometimes you make three saves, and sometimes they score a goal with the first attempt,” Oblak said. “It is difficult to explain. I saw the ball and went for it. I reacted quickly and everything went well for me.”

Oblak came up big every time Leverkusen got close to his goal, proving crucial for Atletico as they protected their 4-2 first-leg victory in the Round of 16.

“That’s why we say that he is the best goalkeeper in the world,” Atletico forward Antoine Griezmann said. “He shows it in every match, and showed it again (tonight).”

Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno also played well to keep Atletico from capitalizing on their own chances at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.

Leverkusen were trying to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since they lost to Real Madrid in the 2002 final. The German club was eliminated by Atletico at this same stage in a penalty shootout two seasons ago, when Oblak also thrived with an important penalty save.

The goalkeeper made amazing back-to-back saves on Wednesday after a mistake by Atletico defender Jose Gimenez led to a dangerous breakaway for Leverkusen in the 68th minute.

Oblak first stopped Julian Brandt’s attempt in a one-on-one, then immediately threw himself in front of the goal to keep Kevin Volland from scoring from the rebound, and again outstretched his arms to block Volland’s other attempt from close range.

The German club still had another chance in the same move, but the shot by Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez missed wide of the far post as Oblak watched.

Oblak later made two other key stops to keep out dangerous shots by Leon Bailey and Kevin Kampl.

“Congratulations to Atletico and Oblak. He made a lot of great saves,” Leverkusen coach Tayfun Korkut said. “We couldn’t get into our dynamic. The side played well, we created chances, had some good ones, a quadruple one, but still we could not score.”

Leno had prevented Atletico from scoring with a superb fingertip save after a close-range shot by Angel Correa in the 38th, and again with a great stop to a low shot by Koke two minutes later.

“Luck wasn’t on our side. Oblak had to make three really good saves,” Leno said. “It was still a really good performance from us, and definitely a step in the right direction. We proved that we’re capable of matching teams like Atletico if we play to our potential. We can be proud of our performance this evening.”

Leverkusen were playing only their second match under Korkut, who was appointed last week after the club fired previous coach Roger Schmidt amid their worst Bundesliga season in 14 years.

Atletico are trying to return to the final after losing to Real Madrid last season. Diego Simeone’s team also lost to their city rivals in the Champions League final in 2014.