The key moment for Callum Hudson-Odoi at the BayArena, Leverkusen, on Tuesday night came in the 87th minute, when he picked up the ball in his own half.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid had been gnarly and obdurate opponents all night but, having conceded three minutes earlier, they were now a little bit open for the first time.
Hudson-Odoi sensed it. Playing as a No10 — he had started the game wide left — he saw Mario Hermoso, a Simeone veteran and Spanish international, approaching. And he knew he had the speed to expose him. ‘I saw him coming and I knew from earlier that, if I take a touch around him, I’m going to get past him,’ the 21-year-old said later.
A shimmy and a quick stab of the ball around the Spaniard and Hudson-Odoi was off. He was making strides into the Atletico half and then saw substitute Jeremie Frimpong outside him. ‘I thought, ‘He’s got fresher legs. Just give it to him and let him go!’
Frimpong played in Moussa Diaby who was arriving at the far post to score: 2-0. The BayArena erupted. There were 25,000 there on Tuesday night but this being Germany, where fans have status and are empowered to create atmosphere, it felt like 50,000.
Bayer Leverkusen needed this. They have had an awful start to the season and were sat second-bottom of the Bundesliga, so beating one of Europe’s finest teams felt like a potential turning point. And it was for these moments Hudson-Odoi came here.
After 90 minutes, he was substituted and universally applauded, as he had performed well and his link-up with Frimpong, which created the opening goal, was hugely encouraging. The fans behind the subs’ bench stood and applauded until he acknowledged them. It was as though they wanted to be sure he felt welcome and appreciated.