Atletico beat Lazio to secure top spot in Champions League Group E
MADRID (AP) — With a record-tying 20th consecutive victory at home, Atletico Madrid won its Champions League group for the first time in six seasons.
Atletico beat Lazio 2-0 on Wednesday to finish first in Group E and match its longest-ever winning run as a host in all competitions — equaling Diego Simeone's team in 2013.
Antoine Griezmann and Samuel Lino scored a goal in each half at the Metropolitano stadium to give Atletico 14 points, four more than second-place Lazio. Last-place Celtic beat third-place Feyenoord 2-1 at home in the other group match.
Both Atletico and Lazio had already advanced to the knockout stage. A draw would also have been enough for Atletico to clinch first place and be among the seeded teams that will avoid other group winners in the next round.
Atletico hadn’t won its group since the 2016-17 season, when it eventually reached the semifinals and lost to city rival Real Madrid. Simeone’s team was eliminated in the group stage last season, making it only the second time in 11 years that Atletico didn’t advance to the knockout rounds.
“We always try to finish as high as possible,” said Simeone, who played four seasons for Lazio. “Now we wait for the draw (on Monday) to see which opponent we will face, but it will be a good team for sure.”
Lazio was trying to finish first in its group for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, when it made its debut in European soccer’s top club competition.
“We knew it was a difficult match, it’s a defeat against a great team," Lazio midfielder Matteo Guendouzi said.
Set up by Lino, Griezmann’s low shot from near the penalty spot opened the scoring six minutes into the match. Lino added to the lead with a right-footed strike into the top corner in the 51st.
“It was a good match, we got the three points and first place, it’s what matters,” Lino said. “It was important to finish first as it will give us the advantage of playing the return match at home. It’s different when we play here, our fans motivate us to play great matches.”
Griezmann is now two goals shy of the 173 scored by Luis Aragonés, Atletico’s all-time leading scorer.
“I’m really close to the record, I’m anxious about it, but I can’t be too crazy about it," the France forward said. “I need to keep focusing on helping the team win the three points.”
Atletico’s run of 20 straight home wins goes back to a 1-1 draw against Getafe in the Spanish league in February.
It was the 11th straight home win for Atletico this season. Only two other teams in the top five European leagues have won all home games this season — Aston Villa and Liverpool in the Premier League.
Atletico ended with 17 goals from its six group games, two more than its best-ever tally at this stage in the Champions League. It had scored 15 in 2013-14, when it went on to reach the final and lost to Madrid. Only Manchester City scored more goals in the group stage this season, with 18.
Atletico has scored 49 goals in its first 21 matches in all competitions this season, marking the team’s best scoring run to start a season under Simeone, who has been mostly known for setting up stout defenses.
Atletico had a goal by Mario Hermoso disallowed by video review for offside near the end of the first half.
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