Atletico defeats Monaco 2-0, advances in Champions League
MADRID (AP) — There was no letdown this time. Atletico Madrid is back in the knockout stage of the Champions League.
A year after a disappointing elimination in the group stage of the tournament, Atletico secured its spot in the next round by defeating Monaco 2-0 on Wednesday.
The comfortable victory gave Atletico a three-point lead over Borussia Dortmund, which hosts Club Brugge later Wednesday in the other Group A match. Monaco, which had arrived with no chances of advancing, missed a late penalty as former Atletico forward Radamel Falcao shot wide.
Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion and Antoine Griezmann scored first-half goals for Atletico, which had made it to the knockout phase for four straight years before last season's setback.
"We needed to take this step forward," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. "Since the start of this Champions League the team has been fully focused as a consequence of what happened last season."
Atletico has been one of the most successful clubs in Europe in recent years, making it to the Champions League final in 2014 and 2016, and winning the Europa league last season.
"After what happened last year, the most important thing for us was to make it to the next round," said Griezmann, who has scored 11 goals in his last 11 Champions League games at home. "Now we have one final match to try to finish first in the group."
Atletico didn't waste time making sure there was no surprise elimination this time, taking the lead two minutes into the match at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Koke scored Atletico's fastest Champions League goal after his shot from outside the area deflected off the back of defender Benoit Badiashile and fooled Monaco goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.
Griezmann added to the lead in the 24th with a shot from inside the area after nice build-up play by Angel Correa through the left side.
Atletico was in control but Monaco had a chance to get back into the match when it was awarded an 82nd-minute penalty after Youri Tielemans' shot caught the hand of Stefan Savic inside the area, which also led to the defender being sent off with a second yellow card. But Falcao, who had entered the match early in the second half, sent his low shot from the spot wide as Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak dived the other way.
Monaco improved and had a few more chances in the final minutes, but was not able to pull closer.
"We were timid in the first half and conceding so early didn't help us," Henry said. "At halftime we spoke in the dressing room about being more enterprising and attacking more."
Monaco is trying to finish third in the group and secure a spot in the Europa League knockout round. A draw or a win by Club Brugge at Dortmund later Wednesday would end its chances.
The team coached by Thierry Henry is struggling this season, sitting second-to-last in the French league. The former France striker started the match with four teenagers, with veteran Falcao on the bench.
Falcao was honored by Atletico before the match for his successful time at the club.
Atletico had beaten Monaco 2-1 in the first round. The Spanish club will close the group stage at Club Brugge on Dec. 11, while Monaco will host Dortmund.
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