Champions League: Atletico wins to join Dortmund at the top
MADRID (AP) — Atletico Madrid made sure things were different this time against Borussia Dortmund.
After a demoralizing 4-0 loss in Germany last month, the team’s worst under coach Diego Simeone, Atletico rebounded with a convincing 2-0 win over Dortmund on Tuesday, a result that left both clubs at the top of Group A in the Champions League.
“We really wanted to give them a game after they hammered us in Germany,” Atletico forward Antoine Griezmann said. “We learned from our errors and have given a much better image of ourselves tonight.”
Dortmund started well again at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, but Saul Niguez put the hosts ahead near the end of the first half and Griezmann sealed the victory in a breakaway near the end.
“We knew it would be difficult in their stadium, it’s a different story here,” Dortmund forward Mario Goetze said.
The victory left Atletico and Dortmund with nine points each. The teams couldn’t secure a spot in the knockout stage with two rounds left because Club Brugge routed Monaco 4-0 earlier Tuesday and has four points. Monaco, with one point, was eliminated.
Dortmund, which ended with no shots on target, could have sealed first place in the group had it beaten Atletico again. It hadn’t been defeated in 15 competitive matches under new coach Lucien Favre.
Atletico won despite playing without key players like injured striker Diego Costa.
“I’m happy because the team played as a team,” Simeone said.
Niguez opened the scoring after a beautiful exchange of passes that started when Niguez himself picked up the ball outside the area. He passed a defender and sent a low ball to Filipe Luis, who made a run down the left flank before crossing back toward the middle of the box. Angel Correa let the ball go through, and Niguez came in behind him to fire a low shot into the net. Dortmund defender Manuel Akanji touched the ball in front of the goal line but it wasn’t enough to clear it.
Atletico took full control of the game after the first goal and missed several other opportunities to add to the lead during the rest of the first half. It continued to have chances in the second half while Dortmund struggled to get near the goal of Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
Griezmann, in his 50th Champions League game, put an end to Dortmund’s hopes in the 80th with a soft touch from inside the area as Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Burki charged from the net after a pass by midfielder Thomas Partey.
“We controlled the first 20 minutes, had lots of possession, but after we conceded it was a different game. We lost our way a bit after that and it was not our best game,” Dortmund captain Marco Reus said. “It was our first defeat and a deserved one. Atletico just don’t allow you lots of chances.”
In addition to Costa’s absence, Atletico also played without defender Diego Godin, midfielder Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion and forward Thomas Lemar. At halftime, central defender Jose Maria Gimenez had to be replaced because of a thigh injury.
Atletico didn’t get past the group stage last season, ending a run of four straight years making it at least to the quarterfinals. It reached the final twice, both times losing to city rival Real Madrid.
Dortmund also disappointed last season, winning only two points in its group and not making it to the knockout round. It had reached the quarterfinals in the previous year.
The team’s 15-match unbeaten run under Favre was the best ever for a Dortmund coach. The team hosts Bayern Munich on Saturday in the Bundesliga.
In the Champions League, it next hosts Club Brugge on Nov. 28, while Atletico hosts Monaco on the same day.
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni