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Atletico reaches Champions League group stage

Atletico reaches Champions League group stage

Sergio Aguero scored the opening goal Wednesday to help Atletico Madrid rout Schalke 4-0 and advance to the Champions League group stage.
Diego Forlan, Luis Garcia and Maxi Rodriguez also netted in the second leg of the third qualifying round as Atletico won 4-1 on aggregate to mark its return to Europe's top tournament after an 11-year absence.
"It's been marvelous, scoring goals and not conceding any. The players have done their job, the supporters have done their job and have cheered all match," Atletico president Enrique Cerezo said.
Watched by a capacity 54,000 crowd at Vicente Calderon Stadium, which included legendary Argentine star Diego Maradona, Atletico made a slow start to its bid to overturn the 1-0 defeat in Gelsenkirchen, Germany two weeks ago.
However, the home team burst into life in the 19th minute.
Forlan's shot was headed off the line by defender Marcelo Bordon only for the ball to reach Luis Perea. The Atletico right back's cross was met by Aguero, who directed his downward header home via goalkeeper Mathias Schober's right post.
"The fans gave us confidence and that's what helps you win," said Aguero, who was playing his first match since winning the gold medal with Argentina in the Beijing Olympics.
Atletico's Simao Sabrosa almost scored again when he placed a shot which hit the other post after a swift attack 15 minutes later
Atletico began the second half brightly and midfielder Raul Garcia, the only Spanish-born player in the starting lineup, soon volleyed into the side netting.
Forlan then gave Atletico the overall lead in the 51st minute when he received the ball outside the area, twisted and turned before delivering a low, angled shot just inside Schober's left post.
The visitors came close to getting the goal they needed to go ahead on aggregate when Perea's back pass flew just wide of the home team's goal.
Atletico supporters grew more nervous when Schalke's Fabian Ernst and Halil Altintop just failed to connect with a cross from Heiko Westermann's cross from the right in the 61st and then goalkeeper Leo Franco saved from Westermann nine minutes later.
They calmed down in the 82nd when Garcia clipped home Atletico's third goal from Aguero's pass after Schober had parried a fierce shot from the Argentine striker.
The German team's problems worsened when defender Christian Pander _ who scored Schalke's goal in the first leg _ fouled Simao and was sent off, with a penalty awarded.
Maxi calmly slotted the spot-kick home for the fourth goal in the 87th.
Atletico fielded two new defenders _ the Netherlands' John Heitinga and Czech Republic's Tomas Ujfalusi _ but was without left back Antonio Lopez, who was suspended after his ejection in the first leg.
Schalke was without injured midfielder Orlando Engelaar, forward Jefferson Farfan and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, although midfielders Jermaine Jones and Ivan Rakitic were passed fit.
Somber music was played over the leadspeaker system before kickoff as a mark of respect for those who died in the deadly airplane crash in Madrid last week, which took the lives of 154 people.
Atletico begins the Spanish league season on Sunday with a visit to promoted Malaga.


Updated : 2021-10-26 14:55 GMT+08:00