Atletico beats Benfica to win Champs League Group C
LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Atletico Madrid striker Luciano Vietto scored one goal after setting up the opener to lead a 2-1 win at Benfica on Tuesday that leapfrogged the visitors over their Portuguese hosts to win their Champions League group.
Playing at the same stadium where it lost the 2014 final, Diego Simeone’s side avenged a 2-1 loss to Benfica from earlier this season and topped Group C by three points.
“We were back at the same hotel, the same changing room, and this time we won. That says a lot about this team,” Simeone said.
Vietto passed for midfielder Saul Niguez to convert Atletico’s aggressive start into a goal after half an hour, before he added a strike of his own early in the second half.
Benfica substitute Kostas Mitroglou halved the difference in the 75th.
Atletico extended its winning streak to seven matches and its unbeaten run to 13 games in all competitions.
“My guys are making an extraordinary effort to win and win and win,” said Simeone, with Atletico second to Barcelona in the Spanish league. “We are taking away an important victory for what’s to come.”
Benfica, which like Atletico was already qualified for the round of 16, went through second in the group.
Galatasaray was held to 1-1 at home by Astana in the other Group C match. The Turkish side finished third and will join the Europa League.
Atletico started strong with Niguez, who has moved into Simeone’s starting 11 in place of the injured Tiago Mendes, leading the way.
Niguez forced Benfica goalkeeper Julio Cesar to palm away a long-distance strike in the 21st.
Julio Cesar was needed to push over Gabi Fernandez’s effort shortly after, but he could do nothing to keep out Niguez’s left-footed strike when Vietto received a pass from Antoine Griezmann and passed back for his unmarked teammate inside the area.
Atletico was so dominant in the first half that former Benfica goalkeeper Jan Oblak didn’t have to make a save, while Benfica halftime substitute Mitroglou tried to spark the hosts with a shot that missed.
But Vietto soon quashed any thoughts of a comeback when he made a run to the far post, where Yannick Carrasco picked him out from the left flank. Vietto redirected the low cross past Julio Cesar to secure the win.
Mitroglou scored when he received a ball from former Atletico forward Raul Jimenez, held off Diego Godin and fired in a shot off the post.