Atlético Madrid are through to the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, winning in controversial circumstances against Russian side FC Rostov on Tuesday night.
Antoine Griezmann scored both goals, including a 94th minute winner to secure the three points and consolidate top spot ahead of Bayern Munich, who were 2-1 winners this evening away at PSV.
It wasn’t a vintage performance from the red and whites, who have been in dazzling attacking form in La Liga but struggled to break down the stubborn Russian defence.
The visitors will feel they did more than enough to earn the point, but were undone with almost the last kick of the match as Griezmann ran onto a defender’s flick on to finish via the crossbar.
It was the Frenchman who opened the scoring just before the half hour mark and in delightful fashion too, acrobatically guiding the ball into the top corner from a ridiculous position.
Yannick Carrasco’s lobbed ball was helped on, and Grizi showed stunning athleticism to readjust and reach the ball almost in an overhead kick position and guide it home with his left foot.
However, the lead didn’t last long and within two minutes, Rostov were level. Atleti switched off in defence and allowed Azmoun to run onto Poloz’s pass and slot past Oblak for 1-1.
It was the first Champions League goal that Cholo’s men have conceded in over seven hours of football at the Calderón, a little surprising given how easily it came about.
The visitors threatened to take the lead before half-time, but opted to shut up shot in the second half and defend their point.
For a long time it worked, frustrating the crowd and reducing Atleti mainly to long shots and half chances. The hosts looked short of ideas, with the left side of Carrasco and Filipe completely shut down by Kalachev and Mevjla.
However, under Simeone, the red and whites are known for their never say die attitude and simply refused to give up the ghost, and got their reward deep, deep into injury time.
Koke played a hopeful long all forward – one of many in the half – but for once the Rostov defence didn’t deal with it and it fell to Griezmann, who got there before the goalkeeper and smashed home off the crossbar.
For a split-second, it looked as if it was going to be chalked off as the linesman raised his flag, but the flick on had come off of a Rostov head and thus, the referee overruled him.
It would probably have summed up Atleti’s evening had it not counted, but the correct decision was made and provided a real boost to both the team and crowd, even though we would’ve qualified anywhere.
Elsewhere in the group, Bayern Munich came from behind to PSV 2-1 in Eindhoven, meaning they too are through. Atleti will now battle the Germans for the top spot.
We currently have a three point lead at the top of Group D, with PSV at the Calderón to come in three weeks before a huge game in the Allianz Arena in early December.
Jan Oblak – 5
Will be disappointed to have conceded for the third game running (when was the last time that happened?!), but couldn’t do much about the goal. Basically a spectator in the second half.
Sime Vrsaljko – 7
Not everything he did came off, but his endeavour is to be admired. He gets forward well, has a good cross on him and most importantly, looks to have the character to play in this team.
Diego Godín – 6
His spirit played a big part in us finding the winning goal as he jumped with the defender who flicked the ball on to Griezmann, but he must take some fault for the equaliser as he was badly out of position.
Stefan Savic – 6
A few nervy moments, but put his red card on Saturday behind him and was fairly solid throughout. One good challenge in the first half to stop a Rostov counter stands out.
Filipe Luís – 6
Probably his least effective game of the season. Had a lot of the ball, but didn’t link up as he usually does with Carrasco and was guilty of a few sloppy touches and poor crosses.
Gabi – 7
Sat back to stop Rostov from countering in the second half, whilst also playing an important role with his passing, spreading the ball out wide and pumping it forward when needed. However, will he ever get a rest?
Koke – 7
Excellent in his passing, despite not really opening the door on too many occasions. Did well on the ball given the pressure Rostov players were putting on him. Fair to say he’s now a genuinely world class midfield player.
Saúl Ñíguez – 5
Shifted wide after his impressive match in midfield against Málaga, and didn’t play particularly well. A few nice touches, but looked a little off the pace at times and struggled to get into the game.
Yannick Carrasco – 6
Whilst he was quieter than he has been in recent weeks, he still made an impact and never hid from the action. His ball lead to Griezmann’s first goal, and if not for an excellent early block he would’ve scored one himself.
Antoine Griezmann – 8 (Man of the match)
Scored both goals and was very impressive throughout, playing in between the lines and making a lot of good passes and runs. His clever movement earned him both goals and was enough to unlock the Rostov door.
Fernando Torres – 6
Perhaps more suited to matches where we play on the counter rather than against deep block teams, but he worked hard and held the ball up well. Hopefully he gets a Champions League goal at the Calderón before it goes.
Ángel Correa – 6
As usual, he showed signs of his immense talent with some nice turns and touches. Was in a good position to attack a Vrsaljko cross late on in the match but didn’t do so, which for a striker is a little discouraging.
Kevin Gameiro – 6
Took up a wide role as Griezmann and Torres stayed forward, peeling to the wings to try and cause problems with his pace. Didn’t do badly, but looked to be lacking fitness having not trained on Monday.
Do you agree with our ratings? What did you make of the performance?