MADRID, Spain, Nov 22 – Atletico Madrid kept their slim chances of Champions League progress alive as Antoine Griezmann snapped an eight-game goal drought in spectacular fashion with an overhead kick to help see off Roma 2-0 on Wednesday.
Kevin Gameiro added a second five minutes from time for Atletico, who still need Roma to drop points at home to Azerbaijani champions Qarabag and beat the already-qualified Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on December 5 to reach the last 16.
However, the relief around the Wanda Metropolitano was palpable as Atletico at least ended a five-game winless streak at their new 68,000-capacity home.
Twice finalists in the past four seasons, Atletico’s remote chances of reaching the last 16 took another blow before kick-off as Chelsea swept aside 10-man Qarabag 4-0 in Baku to secure their place in the knockout phase.
The English champions are now also in pole position to go through as group winners on 10 points with Roma on eight and Atletico two points further adrift.
Atletico’s poor prospects seemed to be reflected in coach Diego Simeone’s team selection.
The Argentine surprisingly left stalwarts Diego Godin and Gabi on the bench, whilst Argentine midfielder Augusto Fernandez made just his third start in a year after a serious of injury problems.
However, despite a far from full stadium, those that did make it to the game showed their support for the under-fire Griezmann, who was jeered off by some supporters in Saturday’s goalless Madrid derby, by chanting his name from the start.
As they have for much of this season, Atletico lacked inspiration before half-time and, even when they did put the ball in the net, didn’t have luck on their side.
Fernandez’s deflected effort looped into the far corner four minutes before the break, but Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers controversially ruled the goal out for a handball as the Argentine controlled before shooting.
Simeone showed some attacking intent early in the second half as he sacrificed Fernandez for the more forward-thinking Angel Correa.
However, Atletico were nearly undone at the other end in bizarre circumstances when Radja Nainggolan’s mishit cross came off Jan Oblak’s near post with the surprised Slovenian scrambling back to cover his goal.
Correa’s presence paid off though, as he was key to Griezmann’s moment of magic 21 minutes from time.
The Argentine stretched to loft a cross from the byline to the back post, where the ball found Griezmann unmarked and ready to contort his body and smash home a spectacular overhead opener.
Atletico could have had a second moments later on the counter-attack when Roma keeper Alisson got down well low to his right to deny Fernando Torres.
However, the hosts’ task was eased seven minutes from time when Bruno Peres was shown a second yellow card for a late challenge on Filipe Luis.
And two minutes later Gameiro made the game safe when he raced onto Griezmann’s pass and rounded Alisson before calmly slotting home from a narrow angle as Atletico scored twice in a match for the first time in two months and gave themselves a chance of salvation at Chelsea next month.