Atletico Madrid eased into the last 16 of the Champions League with a 2-0 win over beleaguered Monaco, who saw Radamel Falcao miss a late penalty against his former club.
Diego Simeone’s men were able to control proceedings against an injury-hit visiting side who lined up with four teenagers, taking the lead inside two minutes as Koke’s strike found the net via a deflection off 17-year-old centre-back Benoit Badiashile.
Antoine Griezmann soon added a second goal and Atletico remained comfortable thereafter as they moved to 12 points from five games, a total Borussia Dortmund can match with victory over Club Brugge later on Wednesday.
Monaco, who finally claimed a first win since August 11 on Saturday, did have the chance to set up a nervy finish, only for Falcao to fire wide from the penalty spot after Stefan Savic had handled to pick up a second yellow card.
The Ligue 1 side now face a second successive early exit from European competition, their winless run in the Champions League having stretched to 13 games.
Badiashile and Giulian Biancone made their competition debuts as part of an inexperienced Monaco XI, but the former endured a nightmare start.
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) November 28, 2018
Koke was given far too much time and space to run towards goal and the midfielder’s shot from 20 yards deflected off the luckless Badiashile to leave goalkeeper Diego Benaglio helpless.
Former Monaco forward Thomas Lemar hit the post with a curling free-kick before Griezmann made it 2-0 on 24 minutes, the France international prodding home from close range with the outside of his boot after Angel Correa had left Jemerson on his backside.
Monaco finally had a clear-cut chance of their own on the hour mark when substitute Falcao, afforded a predictably warm reception following his previous heroics for Atleti, turned Savic superbly only to shoot straight at Jan Oblak.
Savic was fortunate to only be yellow-carded for elbowing Andrea Raggi in the chest, but the Montenegro defender did see red in the 82nd minute when he handled Youri Tielemans’ goalbound effort.
Falcao fluffed his lines from the spot, though, shooting wide of Oblak’s left-hand post to cap another dismal evening for Monaco.
What does it mean? Just top spot to play for in Group A
After this result, the only unknown in Group A concerns whether Atleti or Dortmund secure top spot. The Bundesliga side will be assured of winning the group if they win their remaining matches, due to their superior head-to-head record against Atleti.
Monaco needed to reduce the gap to third-placed Brugge to have any chance of finishing third. The Belgian side can now look forward to Europa League football in the new year.
Griezmann maintains home hot streak
Griezmann was left with a routine finish for his first-half goal, which took his tally to 11 in as many home Champions League games. He also assisted the opener, and later forced a fine save from Benaglio in the second period, but it was clear Atleti had taken their foot off the gas by then.
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) November 28, 2018
Falcao fails on familiar territory
After starting four teenagers, Henry brought two more off the bench, including Kephren Thuram-Ulien, the son of his former France team-mate Lilian Thuram.
It was Monaco’s other substitute who made the most notable impact, though. Monaco looked much more of a threat with Falcao leading the line, yet the ex-Atleti star was guilty of a dismal miss from the penalty spot as he still waits for his first goal of the continental campaign.
Key Opta Facts
– Atletico have qualified for the Champions League knockout stages in five of their six campaigns under Simeone, with 2017-18 the only exception.
– Since the start of the 2013-14 season, Atletico have kept more clean sheets in the Champions League than any other side (32).
– Koke’s opener against Monaco was Atleti’s fastest goal in the Champions League (one minute and 26 seconds).
Atleti travel to Girona on Sunday and round off their Champions League group stage campaign with a visit to Club Brugge in a fortnight. Three of Monaco’s next four matches are at home, starting with a clash against Montpellier on Saturday and culminating in the visit of Dortmund on December 11.
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