By Matias Grez, CNN
Atlético Madrid beat Porto 3-1 in a bad-tempered clash to steal a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Three players were shown red cards during Tuesday’s match as the two sides squared up on multiple occasions, with Atleti’s eventual win moving the team off the bottom of Group B at the beginning of the evening and above Porto into second place.
Diego Simeone’s side has been far from its intense best in the Champions League this season, winning just two of its six group stage matches, but was able to find a performance just when ‘El Cholo’ needed it the most.
“I’ve been at this club for 10 years and the team always ends up exciting me even more than it has in the previous 10 years,” Simeone told Marca.
“The difficulties, that we didn’t have three central defenders out of four, but there are players with few minutes who are important to us because of the quality of their minutes.
“Today it was [Sime] Vrsaljko’s turn … like [Geoffrey] Kondogbia. The whole team got involved to play, gave everything, put their hearts in into it. We have a goalkeeper who appeared in times of difficulties.
“In the second half, if they score from that [Mehdi Taremi] chance [just before Griezmann’s goal], they win.”
Despite losing its last three matches in the competition, Atleti traveled to the hostile Estadio do Dragao knowing a win would secure passage through to the round of 16 if AC Milan failed to beat Liverpool in Group B’s other match.
Porto created numerous clear-cut chances in the first half, but a combination of poor finishing and some smart saves from Jan Oblak meant the two teams went in level at half time.
In the end, Porto would be made to rue those missed opportunities.
The breakthrough came 10 minutes into the second half as an Atleti corner was flicked on towards the far post, where Antoine Griezmann was waiting to calmly prod the ball into an empty net.
The game’s first flashpoint came on 67 minutes when Atleti’s Yannick Carrasco threw Otavia to the ground as the Porto midfielder tried to retrieve the ball from his opponent in order to take a throw in.
Referee Clement Turpin deemed Carrasco had used excessive force and showed him a straight red card, which further incensed the Atlético bench.
Farcical scenes then ensued as Atleti appeared to desperately attempt to get a Porto player sent off to level the playing field.
Soon each side had 10 players. Porto’s Wendell held out his arm to protect the ball as it went out for a throw in and Matheus Cunha went down clutching his face and writhing around in agony.
Replays showed Wendell’s arm hadn’t even touched Cunha’s face, but Turpin opted to show him a red card regardless.
Porto’s reserve goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin, who was on the bench at the time, was the third player and final player to be sent off, but not before a member of the Atleti backroom staff was also shown a red.
As Porto pressed for an equalizer, Atlético twice pounced on the counterattack — first through Angel Correa and then Rodrigo De Paul — to put the game to bed and relegate Porto to the Europa League.
Sergio Oliveira did pull one back for Porto from the penalty spot with the last kick of the game, but ‘Cholismo’ lives to fight another day in this season’s Champions League.
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