Die Werkself held their own for 120 minutes in front of a vociferous partisan crowd at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, but the pressure ultimately proved too much for Roger Schmidt's side, with Hakan Calhanoglu, Ömer Toprak and Stefan Kießling all missing from 12 yards to hand last season's finalists a place in the quarter-finals following a 1-1 aggregate draw.
'We are a young team'
"I want to congratulate Atletico on their qualification," Schmidt said after the game. "The match was played at full pelt. I want to congratulate my team too. We defended very well after the early Atletico goal. We are a young team without too much experience and it's not easy to survive in a stadium like the Vicente Calderon. We did not have enough concentration and cold blood in the penalty shoot-out."
In truth, the odds were stacked against Leverkusen once Mario Suarez cancelled out Calhanoglu's first-leg winner inside 28 minutes. Atleti had won eight of their last nine European outings on home soil and, true to form, threw absolutely everything at the men from Germany's north-west in a bid to avoid the dreaded spot-kick lottery. The Spanish side only converted three of their penalties, but that was all they needed to progress.
'Stand up and be counted'
"It's always sad to go out on penalties," admitted soon-to-be-retired midfielder Simon Rolfes. "Madrid were the more active team throughout and they showed that once again from the spot. We didn't play with enough belief, we didn't do enough with the ball. Football can be like that: there are always disappointments - now we have to stand up and be counted."
On paper, that means landing a top-four finish back in the Bundesliga. Leverkusen occupy fourth place in the current standings, but have a five-way fight on their hands to secure a seat at Europe's top table next term. Despite being eliminated from the Champions League in the Round of 16 for the second year running, Tuesday's gutsy display in Madrid proves that is without doubt where they belong.