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Atletico always find new ways to excite me after 10 years – Simeone savours do-or-die victory

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 7 Dec 2021

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Diego Simeone said Atletico Madrid always find new ways to excite him as the Colchoneros boss savoured the team’s dramatic progress to the Champions League last 16.

Atletico prevailed in Tuesday’s do-or-die battle away to Porto on matchday six, defeating the Portuguese hosts 3-1 to book their spot in the knockout phase.

Simeone’s Atletico required a victory and hoped Milan failed to beat Liverpool elsewhere in Group B, and the stars aligned for the stuttering LaLiga champions.

Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa and Rodrigo de Paul scored to earn Atletico victory in a match that saw three players sent off – Yannick Carrasco received his marching orders, while Porto duo Wendell and Marchesin were also dismissed amid chaotic scenes as three goals were scored after the 90th minute.

Simeone, who has guided Atletico to two LaLiga titles and a pair of Champions League runners-up appearances during his decade-long tenure in the Spanish capital, could not contain his emotions.

“I’ve been at this club for 10 years and the team always ends up exciting me in new ways,” Atletico head coach Simeone said.

“The difficulties, the fact that we didn’t have three of our four centre-backs, but there are players with few minutes who are still so important to us. Today it was [Sime] Vrsaljko’s turn, we knew he could do his job. [Geoffrey] Kondogbia is the same.

“The whole team got involved in the game, gave everything, put their hearts into it. We have a goalkeeper who delivered in moments of difficulty. In the second half, if they had scored from that chance, they win.

“Today was a beautiful day, a great day. The boys from the youth team made it through and I wanted to as well. They gave us the ambition of wanting to make it through. We are going to remember this as one of the classic Champions League matches of our lifetime, against a great team in a tough game. We’re similar.

“The game had everything – sendings off, chances. Football, how beautiful.”

Porto against Atletico was the first ever Champions League game to see as many as three goals scored in the 90th minute (including stoppage time), while the fixture was the first in the premier club competition to have as many as three red cards since 2013.

Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak said: “It’s been an incredible night. I’m very happy with the victory, for the team and the fans. I’m sure many people didn’t believe in us but it’s in matches like these where we show what a team we really are and that we are such a strong group.

“You have to keep your head up when you lose and, when things don’t go your way, you have to keep playing as if your life depends on it. We can’t be at our best throughout the season but you have to keep on going.

“There’s no limit to what we can do and when we have to dig our heels in we do it. I wish we didn’t have to suffer so much but this is football: it’s not always easy.”

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