Atletico too lax in second half: Griezmann, Latest Football News - The New Paper

Atletico too lax in second half: Griezmann

Griezmann says better teams would have punished La Liga side's drop in standards against Monaco

Atletico Madrid moved one step closer to their dream Champions League final on home turf by beating Thierry Henry's AS Monaco 2-0 yesterday morning (Singapore time) to secure their place in the last 16.

The comfortable win sealed the La Liga side's qualification to the knockout stages from Group A, but Antoine Griezmann sounded a warning after the match.

He told Spanish broadcaster Movistar: "We need to focus on the good first half we had, but we relaxed after the break and that is when other teams can do damage.

"Qualifying was the most important thing, it was the objective.

"We managed to achieve it after what happened last year (when Atletico were knocked out in the group stage).

"We have one more match to see if we can finish in top spot."

Despite Griezmann's warning, Atletico could hardly have imagined a more straightforward passage into the knock-out stages as a struggling Monaco side, ridden with injuries and focused on avoiding relegation from Ligue 1, offered precious little resistance at the Wanda Metropolitano.

A rout looked possible when Koke and Griezmann put Atleti two up within half an hour, but they eased off and Monaco could even have pulled a goal back, only for Radamel Falcao to miss a penalty against his former club.

Stefan Savic's handball conceded the spot-kick on 82 minutes and he was sent off, after receiving a second yellow card.

It was a disappointing end for Falcao, who had been presented with a plaque before kick-off and warmly cheered by the home fans when introduced as a substitute in the second half.

To return to the Wanda Metropolitano for the final on June 1, Atleti will have to beat far tougher sides than Monaco but, after a slow start, their season appears to be taking shape.

Manager Diego Simeone, however, insists the thought of a home final is the furthest thing from his mind.

He said: "That the final being here is not something we think about because that is a long way away.

"The game in general was very good by the team for the first 70 minutes. We knew how to start the game, press them, find space and do them damage.

"We maybe lacked a bit of energy after Saturday's game (a 1-1 draw with Barcelona) and in the last part of the game the opponent grew. Falcao gave them something extra, and the game was a bit more difficult.

"Until now, we have had a very good Champions League campaign, apart from the game at Dortmund. We have to wait and see how the last games go and who we get in the draw."

Dortmund thrashed Simeone's side 4-0 in October and could yet snatch top spot in Group A, particularly given they face Monaco last, with Atletico having the slightly tougher final assignment away to Club Brugge.

Monaco, meanwhile, cannot even trump Brugge to third and a place in the Europa League even if they, and Henry, have more serious domestic concerns.

At times, this match resembled a cup tie between a giant and an opponent two or three tiers below, but Henry must have expected as much when he rested key players, including Falcao, and fielded four teenagers in his starting line-up.

"They saw Griezmann lift the World Cup and now they're going to play against him," said the 41-year-old.

The Frenchman himself is a novice on the managerial stage, noting: "I have a lot to learn, and Simeone is a reference for all coaches.

"Look how he always acts. His team were winning 2-0 and he never left his players alone. He kept on shouting at them to stay focused and run back...

"What he gets from his players is incredible."