Madrid
AP

Lopez brace brakes Atletico in draw

Atletico Madrid were indebted to Leo Franco for keeping their Champions League hopes alive as the Spanish side claimed a barely-deserved draw against Porto in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

Goalkeeper Leo Franco produced a series of crucial blocks and saves to prevent Porto from running riot, most notably in the opening period, to give Atletico at least a fighting chance of still making the quarter-finals.

Hosts Atletico had led twice in the match - with their second goal coming via an awful mistake by Porto goalkeeper Helton - but they were pegged back by two strikes from the dangerous Lisandro, who could easily have netted double that number.

Leo Franco might have known it was going to be a busy night when he had to make his first intervention inside the opening two minutes after Cristian Rodriguez had been set-up by the hugely impressive Hulk three yards out.

However, that actually served as something of a huge wake-up call for Atletico as 60 seconds later the Rojiblancos were ahead.

Sergio Aguero's measured pass looked to be intended for Diego Forlan, but instead it found its way through to Maxi at the far post and he drilled a rising shot past Helder.

Forlan then went close with a blistering left-footed shot from the edge of the area that Helder pushed away, albeit somewhat awkwardly.

Those chances were the exception rather than the rule in the opening 45 minutes though as most of the action was at the other end.

Lisandro had already seen a goal ruled out for offside following some dismal Atletico marking from a free-kick before the same player made it 1-1 in the 22nd minute.

He was left in acres of space after Pablo Ibanez has missed a defensive header and, despite Leo Franco's best efforts, found the back of the net with a low left-footed drive.

Leo Franco got a decent hand on that shot and will have been frustrated to see it go in, but the Argentinian ensured Lisandro did not double his account two minutes later with a crucial near-post block.

Hulk, who had created that opening for his strike partner, then should have netted himself after shrugging off a weak challenge and racing through from the halfway line, but Leo Franco again came to his side's rescue.

Leo Franco's heroics at one end only served to exacerbate Helder's mistake at the other though as Forlan gave his side an undeserved 2-1 lead in first half stoppage time, turning jeers to cheers among the frustrated home fans in the Vicente Calderon stands.

The Uruguayan's shot from the edge of the box was struck well enough, but it was straight at Helder and the Brazilian will be left with nightmares tonight after somehow letting it slip past him.

If that goal sapped the Portuguese side's self-belief then there was no sign of it following the re-start, as Leo Franco again saved his side 60 seconds in with a superb one-handed stop to keep out the ever-dangerous Lisandro's glancing header.

The chances continued to fall for Porto's number nine and, following another Atletico defensive mistake, he should have scored only to blaze over with just Leo Franco to beat.

Lisandro made no mistake when presented with his next chance in the 72nd minute though, bringing Porto on level terms with a close-range finish following a superb low cross from left-back Cissokho.

Porto could not push on and net the third goal their play deserved, but Jesualdo Ferreira's side will be satisfied with their night's work and confident they can make the last eight in the return leg.

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