Fired-up Atletico de­ter­mined to claim Cham­pi­ons League prize

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Atletico Madrid’s last-gasp 2-1 win over Ros­tov on Tues­day which sealed a place in the Cham­pi­ons League last 16 was the lat­est demon­stra­tion that Diego Sime­one’s side are even more de­ter­mined to win the tro­phy that has twice slipped from their grasp.

After los­ing to Real Madrid in the fi­nal last sea­son on penal­ties and in ex­tra-time in 2014, Atletico have got stronger in the com­pe­ti­tion, win­ning all four of their Group D games so far with only Le­ices­ter City match­ing their 100 per­cent record.

Sime­one’s men had beaten Bay­ern Mu­nich, PSV Eind­hoven and Ros­tov 1-0 but Tues­day’s dra­matic late win over the Rus­sians was the clos­est they have come to drop­ping points, need­ing a 94th minute An­toine Griez­mann goal to snatch vic­tory.

The French­man, who opened the scor­ing just be­fore the half-hour mark to end a run of five games with­out a goal be­fore Az­moun quickly equalised, thought his win­ner had been ruled out for off­side and had to wait be­fore wildly cel­e­brat­ing.

“In Atletico we al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate these types of wins,” said de­fender Filipe Luis. “It of­ten hap­pens.

“At home we want to win ev­ery game 30 or 4-0 but some­times teams close up shop and it’s tough. This is the Cham­pi­ons League, and we’ve proved we’re in the top 16 teams in Europe.”

Atletico have evolved from be­ing built on de­fence and counter-at­tacks to a fluid, com­plete team with an abil­ity to ham­mer op­po­nents, demon­strated in La Liga by a 71 vic­tory over Granada in mid-Oc­to­ber and Satur­day’s 4-2 win against Malaga.

They have also re­tained a knack for win­ning test­ing games by the tight­est of mar­gins, par­tic­u­larly in the Cham­pi­ons League, where they have beaten all of their op­po­nents a soli­tary goal.

“We have more al­ter­na­tives this sea­son,” said mid­fielder Koke, who has taken a more cen­tral role after be­ing used on the left wing in pre­vi­ous cam­paigns. “We were hard to pre­dict last sea­son too, but now we are even more var­ied.” Atletico top the group on 12 points with two games re­main­ing and will bat­tle it out with Bay­ern, who have nine, for top spot and seeded sta­tus in the last 16 draw. They host PSV on Nov. 23, and visit Bay­ern, who they beat in Septem­ber, on Dec 6. —Reuters

MADRID: Atletico Madrid’s French for­ward An­toine Griez­mann (R) scores dur­ing the UEFA Cham­pi­ons League Group D foot­ball match Club Atletico de Madrid vs FC Ros­tov at the Vi­cente Calderon sta­dium in Madrid, on Tues­day. — AFP

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