Argentina’s Olympic gold medallist Sergio Aguero powered a revitalized Atletico Madrid into the Champions League group stage with a 4-0 thrashing of Schalke 04 in the Spanish capital.
That completed a 4-1 aggregate score and ensured the club will feast at the top table of European football this season.
Atletico’s Mexican coach Javier Aguirre took a risk in starting Aguero, just days after he returned from China, where scored two goals to help Argentina inflict a humiliating defeat on arch-rivals Brazil in the Olympic semi-finals last week.
Argentina went on to win the gold medal by defeating Nigeria 1-0 in the final.
But Aguirre’s gamble paid off, as Aguero shrugged off jet lag to score in the 19th minute with a superb strike after Schalke keeper Mathias Schober had parried a shot from Diego Forlan.
The strike partnership between the two South Americans kept the Germans busy throughout most of the match.
It was the Uruguayan former Manchester United player who increased the score in the 51th minute, locking on to a pass from Aguero to slot the ball past Schobel.
The Germans came back in second half, but without a number of key players who were out injured they could not keep out the fired-up Spanish team.
Late in the second half, Aguero toyed with the German defence but missed an easy chance, before Luis Garcia, who replaced Forlan, picked up the loose ball to score Madrid’s third in the 82nd minute.
In the 87th minute, Maxi Rodriguez put the result in no doubt when he slotted home a penalty after a foul by Christian Pander, who was sent off for foul and abusive language.
In the stands was a beaming Diego Maradona, whose daughter Gianinna is expecting Aguero’s child.
Before the match, the Vicente Calderon stadium held a minute’s silence to remember the 154 people killed in last week’s Madrid air crash.
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