KISSIMMEE, FL — Mexican striker Chicharito was the biggest star in a Florida Cup match-up between German Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen and Atletico Mineiro out of Brazil’s Serie A. He also shone brightest, scoring a 52nd-minute goal to give his team a 1-0 win in Florida Cup action at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
It was the second match of the tournament for Bayer Leverkusen and the first for Atletico, and it wasn’t hard to tell. Bayer dominated possession and chances throughout the game, but still had trouble breaking down a resolute side from Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Although the goal came in the second half, most of Bayer Leverkusen’s good scoring opportunities came in the opening 45 minutes — as did both of Atletico’s half-chances.
The German side dominated possession and got more of the chances through the scoreless first half. Bayer Leverkusen registered the only shots on target of the first half and only Atletico goalkeeper Uilson and the right post prevented a breakthrough.
Elder drove a half-chance wide just five minutes in for Atletico Mineiro but that was just about all the offense the Brazilian side could muster in the opening 45 minutes. The physical match was played mostly between the boxes and down the flanks as both defenses stayed compact and organized.
Kevin Kampl recorded the first shot on target, forcing a comfortable Uilson save eight minutes into the match off a short corner with a long-range shot. At the 19-minute mark, Bayer midfielder Benjamin Heinrichs cut into right side of the penalty area and had a shot deflected by the defense, allowing Uilson to collect. Three minutes later, Heinrichs blistered a shot wide of the near post from a good position in the top corner of the box.
Uilson bailed out his team in the 31st minute with close-range stops of Hakan Calhanoglu and Wendell after Karim Bellarabi fizzed a cross into the penalty area, keeping Bayer off the score sheet. Eight minutes later, Leverkusen players shouted for a penalty when Chicharito went down in the penalty area, but it was a clean tackle and resulted only in a Bayer corner.
The Brazilian side finally managed a second shot in the 43rd minute but again Elder fired wide. Two minutes later, the Germans again nearly broke the deadlock. Kampl was taken down about seven yards above the penalty area. Calhanoglu curled a beautiful free kick around the wall but slammed his shot into the right post. The referee blew the halftime whistle and the teams headed to the locker room.
Leverkusen continued to work the flanks after the break and it paid off early. The German side earned a corner early in the second period on which Chicharito got his boot into one off the scramble but his shot was blocked. But a moment later the Mexican international put his side up 1-0 off a Heinrichs cross in the 52nd minute.
That was just about the last good chance of the match. The Bundesliga side passed and possessed but had trouble breaking down the defense for good scoring opportunities. Meanwhile, Atletico could scarcely relieve the pressure, let alone generate any offensive opportunities.
Just as the match looked to be over, Atletico did manage one final chance. In the 92nd minute, Capixaba burst down the right flank and sent in a cross for Joao Figueiredo, who scuffed his shot and the Bayer defense cleared.
Germany has a commanding lead in the FC Challenge, with eight points — five of those earned by Bayer Leverkusen for a shootout victory and a win. Atletico Mineiro is 0-1-0 in the only match played so far by a Brazilian side.
The tournament resumes tomorrow at ESPN Wide World of Sports with Wolfsburg taking on Bahia in another Germany-Brazil match-up.