Atletico in trouble after being held by Qarabag to 0-0 draw
BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Atletico Madrid’s chances of reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League for a fifth straight season were hit by a 0-0 draw at newcomer Qarabag on Wednesday, despite playing more than 15 minutes with an extra man.
Atletico, a finalist in 2014 and 2016, remains winless after three matches and is struggling in third place in Group C with just two points — three less than AS Roma and five behind leader Chelsea.
Chelsea and Roma drew 3-3 later Wednesday in England.
The draw gave Qarabag its first ever Champions League point.
“We are left with a very complicated situation in the group,” Atletico captain Gabi said. “Now we have to win all the games that we have left.”
Atletico has reached at least the quarterfinals in the last four seasons, and it was a semifinalist last season.
It was the fourth straight match without a win for Diego Simeone’s team in all competitions.
“We didn’t keep a cool head when we had our chances and they defended well,” Simeone said. “I believe in these players and we’re capable of changing the group situation around.”
Wednesday’s match was marked by the disputed dismissal of Qarabag forward Dino Ndlovu, who was judged to have dived in the 75th minute, drawing his second yellow card of the night. Qarabag players appealed for a penalty after Ndlovu tried to get past Atletico defender Diego Godin inside the area.
There appeared to be contact between Ndlovu and Godin, but not as hard as the South African forward made it look as he fell to the ground.
The hosts still had a few chances in breakaways toward the end of the match, but could not capitalize on the opportunities.
Atletico needed a victory to get back in contention for one of the top-two qualifying spots in the group. It had difficulties imposing its game, but still created most of the significant scoring chances.
Yannick Carrasco came closest to scoring midway through the first half but his shot was saved in a one-on-one with Qarabag goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic.
The Bosnian goalkeeper also made a great save to stop a close-range shot by Antoine Griezmann before halftime.
“We knew it was going to be complicated,” Griezmann said. “We created some clear chances but couldn’t get the goals. We have to keep working to find the solutions to overcome this. We have to remain confident.”
Griezmann, who had missed training because of a fever, had a goal disallowed for offside early in the second half.
Qarabag also appealed for an earlier penalty on Ndlovu, shortly after Griezmann’s disallowed goal, while Atletico wanted a penalty when substitute Fernando Torres appeared to be shoved inside the area near the end of the match.
Atletico opened with a draw at Roma but lost to Chelsea at home after conceding in injury time.
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