Fans celebrate outside as Atletico book last 16 spot
MADRID (AFP) —
Atletico Madrid fans celebrated Wednesday outside their Vicente Calderon stadium, a UEFA ban preventing them from attending the match, as their team qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time in over a decade with a 2-1 win over PSV Eindhoven.
No fans were allowed inside but Atletico did not seem to mind as first half goals from Simao and Maxi Rodriguez secured their passage into the knockout phase for the first time since the 1996/97 season.
With their slightly superior goal difference Atletico now have the edge over Liverpool, who defeated Marseille 1-0 on Wednesday to join Atletico in the knockout phase, in the race to win Group D with both teams unbeaten on 11 points.
"We won and reached the last 16 so that is the main thing, " said goalscorer Simao. «It was strange without our fans and we could hear everything on the pitch.
»However, we heard the fans outside and we have to thank them for their support tonight.
"We are doing well in the Champions League and just need to start reproducing that form in the league. "
Atletico had wiped the floor with PSV in the Netherlands with a resounding 3-0 win but their home advantage was hindered by a UEFA ban forcing the club to play the match behind closed doors as a punishment for the disturbances and reported racist remarks by its fans during the group match against Marseille on October 1.
The lack of fans created an eerie feel in what is usually a thriving stadium and to make matters worse Atletico coach Javier Aguirre had to watch from the stands as he served the second part of his two-match touchline ban.
PSV needed the win to keep their faint hopes alive so their manager Huub Stevens fielded two strikers in an attacking line-up.
Atletico's Dutch international Johnny Heitinga, who used to play for PSV's rivals Ajax, had stoked up the flames before the match by claiming that PSV were much weaker than a few seasons ago.
His words rung true on the basis of a woeful first half PSV display with Portuguese winger Simao pouncing on Carlos Salcido's error to sidefoot home a 14th-minute opener from close range.
With no fans to cheer the goal a giant screen showed Atletico supporters celebrating and the TV fans were in action again on 28 minutes when Argentine Maxi Rodriguez drilled in a second.
Sergio «Kun» Aguero missed a gilt-edged chance shortly before the interval to make it 3-0 and PSV were glad to come off at half-time.
Atletico were caught napping after the interval and two minutes into the second period Danny Koevermans pulled a goal back for Eindhoven.
The visitors made more of a fight of it but Atletico were never overly worried.
Atletico will now look to win their final group match away at Marseille on December 9 to try to secure top spot. Liverpool travel to Eindhoven on the same day looking for the three points and more goals than Atletico to try to leapfrog the Spaniards.