Football

Simeone not giving up hope

Atletico fail to break jinx against Real, but coach says they are capable of the 'impossible'

Atletico Madrid's 3-0 loss to rivals Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final yesterday morning (Singapore time) was just a continuation of results that have blighted the team for almost 60 years.

Real's victory at the Santiago Bernabeu means they are poised to knock Atletico out of the competition for the fourth successive year.

Two of those defeats came in the 2014 and 2016 finals in Lisbon and Milan respectively, the other a quarter-final elimination in 2015, but perhaps the most disappointing aspect of yesterday morning's result was that it was fully deserved.

Real dominated from start to finish with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a hat-trick, while Atletico created only two real chances in the first half, and wasted both.

The loss was a continuation of results Atletico have suffered in continental competition against Real since the European Cup semi-final in 1959 despite coach Diego Simeone's reign bringing more balance to the rivalry.

The Argentinian, however, has not given up on his team's chances yet.

"We will try and take the chance we have, no matter how small it is," Simeone told reporters.

"I feel relaxed, more than anything else, more than ever.

"We will try for something impossible, as we are Atletico Madrid, we are capable of doing it."

Similarly, midfielder Koke is clinging on to hope, promising to force a miracle in next week's return leg at the Vicente Calderon.

He said: "It's worse to lose two finals than one semi-final.

"We never stop fighting, we always get up after a heavy blow.

"Coming back? This is football, tell that to PSG.

"You never know in football. With Cristiano at the Calderon, we won 4-0.

"Now is about apologising to fans and thinking about (next) Wednesday, we want to be in another Champions League final and we're going to give it our all. We're going to keep fighting.

"(Real) did well on the break and won well. Now we must congratulate them and think about Wednesday.

"Simeone said in the dressing room that whoever doesn't want to play on Wednesday should say so."

Despite the tough talk, elimination seems an inevitability.

A pre-match banner caused some consternation at Atletico according to reports in Spain, as Real fans created a display which read "Tell me how it feels", with references to Milan and Lisbon.

Over 4,000 Atletico fans attended the game and they remained for over 15 minutes after the final whistle, singing about never giving up on their team.

Unfortunately their team had given up on them by the 73rd minute of the first leg, conceding Ronaldo's second goal before he completed his hat-trick four minutes from the end, leaving themselves little hope of a comeback next week. 
- WIRE SERVICES

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