Atletico Madrid 0 Apoel 0
Atletico Madrid’s disappointing start to the season continued tonight after they were held to a goalless draw at home by Group D minnows Apoel in their opening Champions League clash.
Having taken just one point from their first two Primera Division games against Malaga and Racing Santander, Atletico would have been hoping for greater joy in Europe against the Cypriots – especially as Chelsea and Porto make up the rest of the group.
However, it was not to be for Abel Resino’s side as they had to settle for just a point despite a much-improved second half display which saw Diego Forlan hit the crossbar and Apoel goalkeeper Dionisios produce a string of brilliant saves.
Atletico’s performance after the break was in stark contrast to what was on show before half-time, when the home side could consider themselves somewhat fortunate not to have been at least a goal behind after Apoel created two great chances.
Both opportunities fell to Constantinos Charalambides, and both times the number 10 failed to find the back of the net when a goal looked a certainty.
The first opening came in the eighth minute when Kamil Kosowski’s low cross from the left found its way through to the unmarked Charalambides at the far post, but the Cyprus international was denied by a superb save by Sergio Asenjo, who had made great ground across his goalline.
To be fair to Charalambides, it was great goalkeeping by the Atletico youngster, but the Apoel striker had no such excuses two minutes before the break when he missed another gilt-edged chance.
It was an almost identical opening to the first except that the cross came from the right, and this time Charalambides put his shot wide with Asenjo struggling.
In between those two incidents Atletico created a few openings of their own, but Chiotis was equal to them all – which would end up being the story of night.
One was a routine save from Forlan, but the other two showed quick thinking and no little bravery from the visiting keeper as he raced out to block efforts from Sergio Aguero and Jose Manuel Jurado.
Despite those efforts though, Atletico would not have been happy with their performance in the opening period, and the Rojiblancos fans certainly let the players know their dissatisfaction as the teams left the pitch.
It was a completely different story at the start of the second half though as Atletico laid siege to the Apoel goal.
In a rampant 10-minute spell by the home side, Chiotis was forced into three brilliant saves to deny Jurado, Forlan and Simao, while Aguero missed another opportunity and Maxi Rodriguez fired across the face of goal from a tight angle.
Forlan then sent a quickly-taken free-kick just wide as Atletico continued to dominate.
The Uruguayan, captaining Atletico with Maxi starting the game on the bench, was doing all he could to find the breakthrough, and he could hardly have come any closer than with six minutes to go when he struck the woodwork.
The former Manchester United and Villarreal striker let fly from long range and was left with his head in his hands as his effort beat Chiotis but came back off the frame of the goal.
More disappointment was to follow for Forlan, when his 30-yard thunderbolt in injury-time was superbly kept out by the overworked Chiotis before Simao put the rebound wide.