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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Positive thinking behind Atletico Madrid's Champions League fightback, says Griezmann

French striker scores as Simeone's side keep alive chances to qualify for knockout round

Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann, centre, returned to goalscoring form on Wednesday night. Juanjo Martin / EPA
Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann, centre, returned to goalscoring form on Wednesday night. Juanjo Martin / EPA

Atletico Madrid kept their slim chances of Uefa 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 to beat the already-qualified Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on December 5 to reach the last 16.

"We will try until the end. We knew it was important to win today and now we'll see what happens," Griezmann told BeIN Sports Spain.

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.

"There is still a game to go and, until the 90 minutes is over, we have to think positively," Atletico manager Diego Simeone said.

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, on 10 points, are now also in pole position to go through as group winners with Roma on eight and Atletico two points further adrift.

"We can't forget who we were playing against, they are a historic team in this competition," Roma manager Eusebio di Francesco said. "It is an honour to be playing to qualify with one game to go. This defeat will help us improve and I saw things that I liked despite the result."

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.

"I think the night started well with the support from the fans," Simeone added. "We fed off that positive energy, we found ourselves again and we found an Antoine who is a special player, and got back to playing a great match."

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, did not have luck on their side.

Augusto 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.

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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's task was made even easier 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.