MADRID (AP) — There was no letdown this time. Atletico Madrid is back in the knockout stage of the Champions League.
A year after a disappointing elimination in the group stage of the tournament, Atletico secured its spot in the next round by defeating Monaco 2-0 on Wednesday.
The comfortable victory gave Atletico a three-point lead over Borussia Dortmund, which hosts Club Brugge later Wednesday in the other Group A match. Monaco, which had arrived with no chances of advancing, missed a late penalty as former Atletico forward Radamel Falcao shot wide.
Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion and Antoine Griezmann scored first-half goals for Atletico, which had made it to the knockout phase for four straight years before last season’s setback.
Atletico has been one of the most successful clubs in Europe in recent years, making it to the Champions League final in 2014 and 2016, and winning the Europa league last season.
It didn’t waste time making sure there was no surprise elimination this time, taking the lead two minutes into the match at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Koke scored Atletico’s fastest Champions League goal after his shot from outside the area deflected off the back of defender Benoit Badiashile and fooled Monaco goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.
Griezmann added to the lead in the 24th with a shot from inside the area after nice build-up play by Angel Correa through the left side.
Atletico was in control but Monaco had a chance to get back into the match when it was awarded an 82nd-minute penalty after Youri Tielemans’ shot caught the hand of Stefan Savic inside the area, which also led to the defender being sent off with a second yellow card. But Falcao, who had entered the match early in the second half, sent his low shot from the spot wide as Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak dived the other way.