MADRID – Atletico Madrid avenged their Borussia Dortmund drubbing from a fortnight ago and revived hopes of going through top of Champions League Group A by beating the German side 2-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano on Tuesday.
Dortmund handed Atletico their heaviest defeat under Diego Simeone with a 4-0 victory 13 days ago but this contest was almost a mirror image, the hosts in control from start to finish.
Saul Niguez and Antoine Griezmann scored a goal in each half to complete a win that puts Atleti five points clear of third-place Club Brugge with two games to play, and on the brink of the Champions League knock-out stage.
First place is also back in sight, with Atletico and Dortmund each on nine points, even if Simeone's side have the slightly tougher task of playing Brugge away in their final fixture.
“We wanted to get one back on them after the first game,” Saul said. “It was tough to take and it might have gone the other way two weeks ago. Tonight was a bit of revenge for us.”
After losing in Germany, Atleti were also held at struggling Leganes in La Liga on Saturday and this result, without the injured Diego Costa, Diego Godin and Koke, will do wonders for morale.
The only set-back was defender Jose Gimenez being forced off at half-time with what the club confirmed was a thigh strain.
“The team responded,” Simeone said. “We played as a team and when everyone buys into that, you have your identity. You can feel what you do together and today the boys showed that.”
Dortmund, who sit top of the Bundesliga, host Bayern Munich on Saturday and they lacked the same verve they showed two weeks ago.
“They dominated us today,” Dortmund coach Lucien Favre said, before brushing off the suggestion this could hang over them against Bayern.
“It's just a defeat. It can happen.”
England's Jadon Sancho was handed his fourth consecutive start for the visitors, his longest run in the side this season. After a bright start, the youngster faded and was replaced late in the second half.
The first 30 minutes was a battle for the pace of the game, with Atletico trying to keep it fast and frenetic while Dortmund aimed to kill momentum at every opportunity.
Angel Correa twice went close but otherwise Atleti's authority came to little in the way of chances until the 32nd minute.
Saul began the move by playing left to Filipe Luis and finished it too, sliding the ball goalward where Manuel Akanji lashed it into his own net. In between, Filipe's pass had been brilliantly dummied by Correa.
Their resistance broken, Dortmund lost their way and were hanging on at the end of the half. Thomas Partey's drive grazed the crossbar and soon after Saul skewed wide when left open at the back post.
Simeone was convinced they deserved a penalty when Griezmann's effort was parried and the incoming Saul was taken out by Lukasz Piszczek.
Dortmund's best chance came early in the second half when Paco Alcacer nipped in after a Francisco Montero slip. Alcacer fired across goal but with such force that Raphael Guerreiro, five yards out, hardly saw the ball as it flew off his head and over the bar.
Atletico waited for their moment on the counter-attack and when it came in the 80th minute, they pounced. One pass out of defence found Gelson Martins, who helped it forward to Partey. He played inside to Griezmann, who muscled through and poked the ball past Roman Burki.
Simeone turned, his fist pumping. Dortmund's hopes of a comeback were dashed and Atletico were back in with a realistic chance of topping the group.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)