ASTANA, Kazakhstan (Reuters) – Atletico Madrid were held to a goalless draw away to a battling Astana in the Champions League on Tuesday, denting the Spaniards’ hopes of finishing top of Group C.
Atletico remain top of the standings with seven points from four games, a point clear of Benfica who host Galatasaray later on Tuesday.
The visitors, who travelled more than 5,500 kilometres from Madrid to the Kazakh capital, started well and were lively in the early stages, creating some decent chances.
Astana defender Evgeni Postnikov produced an excellent block in the 11th minute to keep out Tiago’s goalbound effort.
Fernando Torres, who was looking for his 100th goal for Atletico, almost reached the landmark after the half hour mark, but poked his shot wide after capitalising on a defensive mistake from the Kazakh side.
Roared on by a passionate capacity crowd, Astana grew in stature as the first half wore on and finished the stronger of the two teams, yet they were unable to seriously test Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
The second half got off to a slow start, as Astana proved to be much tougher opponents than they were two weeks ago when they lost 4-0 in Madrid.
Dmitri Shomko had a good chance to break the deadlock for the hosts, but his effort was saved by Oblak.
Diego Godin and Jackson Martinez, who replaced the out of sorts Torres just after 60 minutes, had chances for the visitors, while Yannick Carrasco hit the crossbar.
Astana held on for a deserved point, but remain bottom of the group with two points.
(Reporting By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy; editing by Toby Davis)