The goalless Champions league match in Kazakhstan on Tuesday was much more of a loss for Atletico Madrid than a tie.
Coming off a 4-0 win against Astana two weeks ago at home, Atleti needed the win today to provide a cushion at the top of Group C. Benfica also played Galatasaray and despite ending the match with 10 men on the field, managed to win 2-1. This set Benfica comfortably on top of Group C with nine points to Atleti’s seven, and 2 more away goals than Atleti.
Ahead of Tuesday’s goalless match, Diego Simeone told AS, “Tomorrow’s match is the determining factor for our team’s future because all teams find it difficult to win at this stadium and we have to go through it. No one should think that based upon the result from the Calderon, that this match will be easy.”
After the match, he said, “I said that it would be a tough, tough, tough game, but there is nothing to blame the team for.” He said that his squad had some defensive issues, and then said what all fans know: “Offensively, we have to generate more.”
This was the crux of the issue – Atleti doesn’t push forward enough, and lets themselves fall deep and stay there. Simeone’s response, however, doesn’t do much to address the issue – it’s really more press fluff. At least he’s consistent with that.
Now Atleti must win over Galatasaray to win the group. Simeone said, “With the defeat against Benfica, we have to win at Galatasaray and see what happens next.”
Astana’s artificial turf was one of the concerns heading into the match. Simeone told AS that it was not ideal, but that was part of it all. “When we were little we played on mud, grass, synthetic turf, high grass,” he said. “You have to play football and I consider it to be a circumstance like the wind, the sun, the cold, the snow. You have to play football just like the phrase suggests and not think about those things.”
We all know the turf had nothing to do with the result.
For Astana’s part, they were pleased with the result. Prior to the match, Astana was on a win streak in the Kazakhstan Premier League and desperate to continue in next year’s European competition. Astana’s manager, Bulgarian Stanimir Stoilov, said after the match, “We fought and deserved this point.” He added that his team gave “everything” and had “fought and deserved this point.”
Atleti have a lot to think about on the plane ride back to Madrid if they want to continue their Champions campaign. The talent is there—but they must use it wisely.