November 24, 2016 10:09:51 am
At least in the Champions League, there is no sign of a letdown for Atletico Madrid. The Spanish club again triumphed in the European competition on Wednesday, defeating already eliminated PSV Eindoven 2-0 to retain a perfect record and secure first place in Group D with one round of matches remaining.
In contrast, Atletico lost three of its last four games in the Spanish league, with the latest defeat a painful 3-0 loss at home against Real Madrid in the city derby. But it picked up its fifth win in as many matches in the Champions League with second-half goals by Kevin Gameiro and Antoine Griezmann at Vicente Calderon Stadium on Wednesday.
“We wanted to put Saturday’s loss (to Madrid) behind us,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “For the club and the fans this is an important win, it sends us into the knockout stage in a privileged position and allows us to keep competing for our goals.”
The result left Atletico with six more points than Bayern Munich, which lost 3-2 to FC Rostov in Russia but had already advanced from the group.
“We wanted to give a different impression and win this game to finish first,” Griezmann said. “We need to keep working hard both in the (Spanish) league and in the Champions League. We need to keep giving everything we have. Today was a complicated match and we played well.”
PSV remained with one point, three less than Rostov. In the final group round, Atletico plays at Bayern Munich and PSV hosts Rostov to fight for a spot in the Europa League next season.
“If we win the game, we know we’ll stay in Europe. That’s our objective,” PSV coach Phillip Cocu said. “Today I saw some good things and it was our errors that cost us. That’s the difference at this level against a big team like Atletico.”
Last season’s runner-up in the Champions league, Atletico is the only team to have won all of its first five matches in the group stage, its best ever start in the competition. It had already qualified before Wednesday’s game.
Atletico had been held scoreless in its last two games, and it took a while before it got the attack going against PSV.
But after a slow first half, the hosts got on the board in the 55th with Gameiro’s low shot into the far corner after a well-timed pass by Griezmann, and Griezmann got his own goal around 10 minutes later with a shot from inside the area.
Gameiro nearly added another but his header struck the crossbar.
“The goal was a demonstration of his qualities: speed, power, finish,” Simeone said of Gameiro. “It was a great finish. That’s what both he and Griezmann offer. It was an important moment both for him and the team.”
After the recent setbacks in the league, Simeone reverted to a more secure scheme defensively, with midfielder Tiago playing from the start along with Gabi Fernandez, which was enough to keep PSV from having many significant scoring chances.
Simeone’s team has won 28 of its 33 games at the Calderon in European competitions.
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