Misfiring Atletico face an uphill task

BAKU (Azerbaijan) • Diego Simeone still believes his Atletico Madrid side can reach the knockout stages of the Champions League, even after a frustrating 0-0 draw at Qarabag on Wednesday that extended their winless run in Group C to three games.

Despite claiming one point from their opening two matches against Roma and Chelsea, Atletico - finalists in two of the last four seasons - were expected to make light work of unfancied Qarabag, who picked up their first Champions League point.

Yet the Spanish side lacked a clinical edge, with Belgian Yannick Carrasco and Antoine Griezmann missing good chances in the first half before the Frenchman had an effort disallowed for offside after the break.

"I believe in these players and we're capable of changing the group situation around," Atletico coach Simeone told reporters.

"I'm feeling good and the side too. We need to improve our finishing. Draws happen. We didn't lose but we couldn't score despite playing well.

"We didn't keep a cool head when we had our chances and they defended well. We couldn't win but we had enough chances to do so."

Azeri side Qarabag looked dangerous on the counter-attack, but their late push for an unlikely winner ended after Dino Ndlovu was dismissed, having received a second yellow card for a dive in the 75th minute.

Chelsea lead Group C with seven points following their draw with Roma. Atletico are three points adrift of Roma (5) in third and can ill afford to lose any more ground on the top-two sides.

"We've still got three games to qualify and we'll fight to the end," forward Griezmann added. The LaLiga side will play Qarabag again on Nov 1 at home.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2017, with the headline 'Misfiring Atletico face an uphill task'. Print Edition | Subscribe