Playing in Closed Stadiums an ‘Embarrassment’, Says England Manager Southgate

England's coach Gareth Southgate arrives for the draw for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center on April 1, 2022. (AFP)
England's coach Gareth Southgate arrives for the draw for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center on April 1, 2022. (AFP)
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Playing in Closed Stadiums an ‘Embarrassment’, Says England Manager Southgate

England's coach Gareth Southgate arrives for the draw for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center on April 1, 2022. (AFP)
England's coach Gareth Southgate arrives for the draw for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center on April 1, 2022. (AFP)

England manager Gareth Southgate said it is an "embarrassment" for the national team to play without fans and called for better behavior at stadiums after a string of pitch invasions marred the end of the domestic season.

England were ordered to play their next two home games in UEFA competition without supporters present after disturbances during their Euro 2020 final last year.

Southgate's side host Italy in the Nations League on June 11, in a rematch of that final, behind closed doors. The ban on fans attending the second game has been suspended for a probationary period of two years.

"We're on a yellow card and we've got the embarrassment now of playing behind closed doors at home," Southgate told reporters.

"We still want to host events. We've got a women's Euros here this summer which should be a brilliant experience for everybody ... We're talking about something that could cost us the chance of doing those sorts of things ..."

Several pitch invasions occurred in English football over the last few weeks, with Aston Villa's Robin Olsen, Sheffield United's Billy Sharp and Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira being involved in on-field incidents with fans.

"When it's in our environment, we have to do all we can to make sure it doesn't happen," Southgate said. "It's a wider problem, a reflection of where we are as a country.

"We don't want to go back to fences up (at stadiums) and the type of environment that created. At various times in my lifetime, football has become a vehicle for people who want a fight and want to do whatever.

"We don't want to head back there."

England open their Nations League A Group 3 campaign against Hungary on June 4 in Budapest, a match that will also be played without fans due to incidents during Hungary's Euro 2020 games.

England then have a trip to face Germany three days later.



Postecoglou Has Stunned the Premier League. Now He’s Ready to Take on Pep

Football - Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, Britain - November 26, 2023 Tottenham Hotspur manager Ange Postecoglou reacts. (Reuters)
Football - Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, Britain - November 26, 2023 Tottenham Hotspur manager Ange Postecoglou reacts. (Reuters)
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Postecoglou Has Stunned the Premier League. Now He’s Ready to Take on Pep

Football - Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, Britain - November 26, 2023 Tottenham Hotspur manager Ange Postecoglou reacts. (Reuters)
Football - Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, Britain - November 26, 2023 Tottenham Hotspur manager Ange Postecoglou reacts. (Reuters)

After a record-breaking start as Tottenham manager, Ange Postecoglou is experiencing the other side to life in a job that has proved too much for some of the biggest names in soccer.

A three-game losing streak has seen Spurs fall from first to fifth in the Premier League, while a growing injury list means it could get worse for Postecoglou's team as the congested Christmas schedule approaches.

But ahead of Sunday's game at the home of defending champion Manchester City, the Australian coach is adamant he will stick to the formula that has made Tottenham the surprise package in England's top flight this season.

"You look at the top teams and there’s one common trait amongst them — they’ve all got a plan, they invest in that plan, and they stick to it," Postecoglou said. "They don’t shy away from that at the first difficulty. Whether it is City or Arsenal or Liverpool, all the teams that have dominated in recent years, they’ve got a plan and they stick to it. You have to."

It is a measure of just how good Spurs' early-season form was that even after three straight losses they are only four points off league leader Arsenal.

A win at Etihad Stadium on Sunday would see the Londoners move level on points with City.

"For me these are the important times because this will show what kind of football team we want to be," Postecoglou said. "You can sort of shy away, say we have injuries, we’re playing Man City away, but you’re either going to be a club that tries to knock off the big clubs or you are a big club. You are one or the other.

"My hope and my ambition for this club is to make it a big club and to do that you have to be successful and win things."

The former Australia and Celtic coach has won a lot of admirers for his blunt-talking approach and attacking style of play. He also won the Premier League manager of the month award for the first three months of the season as Tottenham charged ahead.

No other manager had achieved that feat in the first three months of a campaign — or the first three awards available to them in a job.

Not even Guardiola, who has led City to five league titles in six years.

Postecoglou's impact on Spurs has been noted by City's manager.

They faced each other once before when City played Yokohama F. Marinos in a preseason friendly in 2019. Postecoglou was coaching the Japanese team at the time.

City won 3-1, but it prompted Guardiola to say "wow, there are things I like."

"We won, all respect to Yokohama, but we had better players," Guardiola said. "But I realized for the first time I met him, and have followed him when he was at Celtic winning trophies and now in the short time he’s been (at Spurs).

"As a manager and a spectator I enjoy a lot watching them play with the approach they have. I think all the Spurs fans and the people in England can admit that his impact has been quick and really good."

When hired by Tottenham in June, Postecoglou became the club's fourth permanent manager since the departure of Mauricio Pochettino in 2019. In that time, serial winners like Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte both came and went after short-lived spells.

Having led Celtic to five trophies in two seasons, Postecoglou was tasked with the responsibility of turning Spurs' fortunes around after failing to qualify for Europe for the first time since 2009.

As if that task wasn't hard enough, he had to do it without record scorer Harry Kane, who was sold to Bayern Munich in the offseason.

A run of eight wins from his first 10 league games in charge suggested Postecoglou had discovered a way to live without the iconic striker, with summer signing James Maddison in outstanding form and Son Heung-min helping to fill the scoring void.

But a 4-1 loss at home to Chelsea when down to nine players last month brought an end to that streak, with Spurs going on to lose against Wolves and Aston Villa. All of those defeats came after Postecoglou's team had taken the lead and appear to show the fragility of a squad that has lost a host of key players to injury, including Maddison, Richarlison and Ivan Perisic.

Rodrigo Bentancur has now been ruled out for about two months with an ankle injury.

Postecoglou refuses to compromise his style.

"Whatever you believe in, whatever you really strongly believe in, you as a person, only gets tested in the toughest of times. It doesn’t get tested when things are going well," he said. "And for me these are the important times because this will show what kind of football team we want to be."

Guardiola is expecting nothing other than a typical attacking performance from Postecoglou's team on Sunday.

"I encourage our fans to come to the stadium because we will have fun," he said.


France Coach Deschamps to Miss Euro 2024 Draw after Undergoing Surgery

France's head coach Didier Deschamps addresses the media during a press conference at the Agia Sophia Stadium in Athens on November 20, 2023, on the eve of the UEFA Euro 2024 group B qualifying match between Greece and France. (AFP)
France's head coach Didier Deschamps addresses the media during a press conference at the Agia Sophia Stadium in Athens on November 20, 2023, on the eve of the UEFA Euro 2024 group B qualifying match between Greece and France. (AFP)
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France Coach Deschamps to Miss Euro 2024 Draw after Undergoing Surgery

France's head coach Didier Deschamps addresses the media during a press conference at the Agia Sophia Stadium in Athens on November 20, 2023, on the eve of the UEFA Euro 2024 group B qualifying match between Greece and France. (AFP)
France's head coach Didier Deschamps addresses the media during a press conference at the Agia Sophia Stadium in Athens on November 20, 2023, on the eve of the UEFA Euro 2024 group B qualifying match between Greece and France. (AFP)

France coach Didier Deschamps won't attend Saturday’s draw for next year’s European Championship after undergoing surgery.

The French federation said in a statement on Friday that Deschamps was operated on earlier this week after suffering back pain for several weeks. France will instead be represented by assistant coach Guy Stephan.

“It was not a light-hearted decision that I decided not to go to the draw,” Deschamps was quoted as saying in the statement. "It’s always a pleasant moment, during which I really enjoy chatting with my counterparts. But wisdom dictated a few days’ rest."

Tournament host Germany and France, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and England are in Pot 1 for the 24-team draw in Hamburg.


European Gymnastics Federation Rejects Return of Athletes from Russia, Belarus to Competition

Trampolining - FIG World Trampoline Championships - Utilita Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, Britain - November 10, 2023 Britain's Lewis Gosling in action during the men's double mini team final. (Reuters)
Trampolining - FIG World Trampoline Championships - Utilita Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, Britain - November 10, 2023 Britain's Lewis Gosling in action during the men's double mini team final. (Reuters)
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European Gymnastics Federation Rejects Return of Athletes from Russia, Belarus to Competition

Trampolining - FIG World Trampoline Championships - Utilita Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, Britain - November 10, 2023 Britain's Lewis Gosling in action during the men's double mini team final. (Reuters)
Trampolining - FIG World Trampoline Championships - Utilita Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, Britain - November 10, 2023 Britain's Lewis Gosling in action during the men's double mini team final. (Reuters)

The European Gymnastics Congress on Friday ignored a decision by the International Gymnastics Federation and voted against the return of athletes from Russia and Belarus to international tournaments from next year.

The decision was made on the opening day of the 30th congress of the European federation in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.

“The General Assembly of European Gymnastics has voted against allowing athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus to return to official European Gymnastics competitions from 1 January 2024 onwards, thus not following the FIG decision,” it said in a statement.

The governing body had imposed an outright ban on athletes from Russia and Belarus since March last year in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In July, the FIG executive committee decided to allow individual athletes from both countries to compete with neutral status from Jan. 1 if they meet certain criteria.


Liverpool Power Into Europa League Last 16, Brighton Reach Knockouts

Liverpool striker Cody Gakpo (L) celebrates after scoring against LASK - AFP
Liverpool striker Cody Gakpo (L) celebrates after scoring against LASK - AFP
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Liverpool Power Into Europa League Last 16, Brighton Reach Knockouts

Liverpool striker Cody Gakpo (L) celebrates after scoring against LASK - AFP
Liverpool striker Cody Gakpo (L) celebrates after scoring against LASK - AFP

Cody Gakpo's double fired Liverpool into the Europa League last 16 as they routed LASK 4-0, while Brighton advanced to the knockout round with a 1-0 win at AEK Athens on Thursday.

Jurgen Klopp's side sealed top spot in Group E thanks to Gakpo's brace and goals from Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah at Anfield.

Second-placed Toulouse's 0-0 draw against Union Saint-Gilloise in the other group game means Klopp can rest players for his team's last remaining pool stage fixture.

Europa League group winners go through to the last 16 automatically, while the runners-up play in a two-legged knockout round play-off in February against a team who finish third in a Champions League group.

"The most important thing is that we're at the head of the group and that won't change so that's good," Klopp said.

"There was some good football but this game should have been put to bed before half-time. We didn't do that, but it's fantastic to win 4-0."

Klopp made nine changes from the side which drew with Premier League champions Manchester City last Saturday, with Salah and Kostas Tsimikas the only players to keep their places.

Rising to meet Joe Gomez's cross, Diaz netted his first goal at Anfield since August as his header raced past LASK keeper Tobias Lawal in the 12th minute.

Having opened the scoring, Diaz helped set up Liverpool's second three minutes later when he picked out Salah, who teed-up Gakpo to net from close-range, AFP reported.

Salah killed off the out-classed Austrians in the 51st minute, stroking home a penalty for his 13th goal this season after Gakpo was fouled by Lawal.

Dutch forward Gakpo capped the demolition with a fierce strike in stoppage-time.


Struggling French Club Lyon Fires Coach after Less Than 3 Months in Charge

(FILES) Lyon's French head coach Fabio Grosso looks on during the French L1 football match between Brest and Lyon at the Francis Le Ble stadium in Brest, western France on September 23, 2023. (Photo by Fred TANNEAU / AFP)
(FILES) Lyon's French head coach Fabio Grosso looks on during the French L1 football match between Brest and Lyon at the Francis Le Ble stadium in Brest, western France on September 23, 2023. (Photo by Fred TANNEAU / AFP)
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Struggling French Club Lyon Fires Coach after Less Than 3 Months in Charge

(FILES) Lyon's French head coach Fabio Grosso looks on during the French L1 football match between Brest and Lyon at the Francis Le Ble stadium in Brest, western France on September 23, 2023. (Photo by Fred TANNEAU / AFP)
(FILES) Lyon's French head coach Fabio Grosso looks on during the French L1 football match between Brest and Lyon at the Francis Le Ble stadium in Brest, western France on September 23, 2023. (Photo by Fred TANNEAU / AFP)

Italian coach Fabio Grosso has been fired by Lyon after less than three months in charge of the struggling seven-time French champion.
Grosso was fired after just eight league games in charge, having being hired in September as a replacement for Laurent Blanc with the mission to put the team back on track.
Blanc left following a bad start to the season, with Lyon in last place with only one point from four games. The club remains bottom of the league after Grosso's departure, with seven points from 12 matches and just one win, The Associated Press reported.
The 46-year-old Grosso, who played 75 games for Lyon from 2007-09, had a contract until the end of the season. He was injured in October when the Lyon team bus was attacked by fans throwing stones after a game at Marseille, which left him bleeding from a cut to his face.
Lyon said Pierre Sage would be in charge of preparations for Lyon's match at Lens on Saturday.


Colombia Judge Orders Prison for Suspects in Kidnapping of Liverpool Player Parents

This photo released by Colombia's Football Federation shows Liverpool soccer player Luis Diaz, left, reuniting with his father Luis Manuel Díaz, days after his father was released from his kidnappers, in Barranquilla, Colombia, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023. (Colombia Football Federation via AP)
This photo released by Colombia's Football Federation shows Liverpool soccer player Luis Diaz, left, reuniting with his father Luis Manuel Díaz, days after his father was released from his kidnappers, in Barranquilla, Colombia, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023. (Colombia Football Federation via AP)
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Colombia Judge Orders Prison for Suspects in Kidnapping of Liverpool Player Parents

This photo released by Colombia's Football Federation shows Liverpool soccer player Luis Diaz, left, reuniting with his father Luis Manuel Díaz, days after his father was released from his kidnappers, in Barranquilla, Colombia, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023. (Colombia Football Federation via AP)
This photo released by Colombia's Football Federation shows Liverpool soccer player Luis Diaz, left, reuniting with his father Luis Manuel Díaz, days after his father was released from his kidnappers, in Barranquilla, Colombia, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023. (Colombia Football Federation via AP)

Two suspects in the kidnapping of the parents of Liverpool soccer player Luis Díaz were ordered sent to prison by a judge, Colombia’s Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday, accusing one of the men of being the link to a person close to the family who provided information about the victims.
Andrés Alcires Bolívar and Marlon Rafael Brito are also accused of maintaining contacts with members of the National Liberation Army, or ELN, in the planning and execution of the Oct. 28 abductions in Barrancas, a town in La Guajira in Colombia’s northeast of Colombia, The Associated Press reported.
Díaz’s parents - Luis Manuel Díaz Jiménez and Cilenis Marulanda — were kidnapped by a unit of the ELN at a gas station by armed men on motorcycles.
Marulanda was rescued by police a few hours later, but Díaz’s father was held captive for 12 days by the ELN. The father was released on Nov. 9 near the Serranía del Perijá, bordering Venezuela, where facilitators from the Catholic Church and the United Nations had flown by helicopter.
Prosecutors said in a statement that Alcires Bolivar was a merchant in La Guajira who had been contacted by a member of the ELN to help him kidnap Díaz’s parents. He allegedly went to Barrancas to convince “a person who was close to the Díaz family” to participate in the kidnapping and to learn about the victims’ routines.
Rafael Brito allegedly helped in the logistics of the kidnapping, including planning the deception under which Díaz Jiménez and Marulanda were abducted at the gas station. Prosecutors say the soccer player’s parents went there to fulfill a promise of support for the candidacy of a relative who was running for the Barrancas Council.
The two men have denied involvement in the kidnapping and other charges.
Díaz plays from the English club Liverpool and Colombia’s national soccer team.
After the kidnapping, special forces were deployed to search for Díaz’s father in a mountain range that straddles Colombia and Venezuela. Police also offered a $48,000 reward for information that led to him.
The ELN acknowledged the kidnapping, saying it was a mistake and that its top leadership had ordered the father’s release.


37th America's Cup: Second Preliminary Regatta Kicks off in Jeddah

The second preliminary regatta of the 37th America’s Cup, presented by NEOM, commenced on Wednesday on the Red Sea in Jeddah, SPA said on Thursday.
The second preliminary regatta of the 37th America’s Cup, presented by NEOM, commenced on Wednesday on the Red Sea in Jeddah, SPA said on Thursday.
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37th America's Cup: Second Preliminary Regatta Kicks off in Jeddah

The second preliminary regatta of the 37th America’s Cup, presented by NEOM, commenced on Wednesday on the Red Sea in Jeddah, SPA said on Thursday.
The second preliminary regatta of the 37th America’s Cup, presented by NEOM, commenced on Wednesday on the Red Sea in Jeddah, SPA said on Thursday.

The second preliminary regatta of the 37th America’s Cup, presented by NEOM, commenced on the Red Sea in Jeddah, SPA said on Thursday.
Six teams are competing in the regatta, which is powered by the Saudi Sailing Federation in cooperation with the Ministry of Sport.
Tom Slingsby, Helmsman for the NYYC American Magic team and the male recipient of the 2023 Rolex World Sailor of the Year award, highlighted the significance of the preliminary regatta in further bolstering the sailors’ confidence in their skills and abilities.
The regatta provides the sailors with a clear roadmap to secure victory in the 37th America's Cup in Barcelona, Slingsby said. By identifying weaknesses and learning from past mistakes in Vilanova i la Geltrْ, Spain, and Jeddah, they can enhance their overall performance, he added.
Kevin Peponnet from the French Orient Express Racing Team eagerly anticipates the races on Thursday, particularly due to the ideal sailing conditions in Jeddah during this time of the year.
He commended the well-coordinated organization and the warm reception extended by the Saudi Sailing Federation and the Ministry of Sport.
The official races of the regatta will take place from Thursday to Saturday, and the team with the highest number of points will be awarded the NEOM Cup.


Barca Have Shown ‘Winning Mentality’ in Champions League, Says Xavi 

FC Barcelona's striker Joao Felix celebrates after scoring the 2-1 goal during the UEFA Champions League group H soccer match between FC Barcelona and FC Porto, in Barcelona, Spain, 28 November 2023. (EPA)
FC Barcelona's striker Joao Felix celebrates after scoring the 2-1 goal during the UEFA Champions League group H soccer match between FC Barcelona and FC Porto, in Barcelona, Spain, 28 November 2023. (EPA)
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Barca Have Shown ‘Winning Mentality’ in Champions League, Says Xavi 

FC Barcelona's striker Joao Felix celebrates after scoring the 2-1 goal during the UEFA Champions League group H soccer match between FC Barcelona and FC Porto, in Barcelona, Spain, 28 November 2023. (EPA)
FC Barcelona's striker Joao Felix celebrates after scoring the 2-1 goal during the UEFA Champions League group H soccer match between FC Barcelona and FC Porto, in Barcelona, Spain, 28 November 2023. (EPA)

Barcelona manager Xavi said his side have shown a winning mentality in the Champions League after they sealed their return to the knockout stages of Europe's elite club competition for the first time in three seasons on Tuesday.

Joao Cancelo and Joao Felix scored in each half to earn Barcelona a 2-1 comeback win at home against Porto that took the Group H leaders to 12 points from five matches.

A draw against already-eliminated Antwerp in their final group fixture will be enough to seal top spot.

"We needed this after two years," Xavi said. "We reacted well and displayed a winning mentality on several occasions.

"This was an important step in the right direction. It means a lot to the club.

"That's the first of our targets achieved in the Champions League. It has calmed us down and boosted our confidence, especially that of the players."

Tuesday's win comes on the heels of a disappointing 1-1 draw at Rayo Vallecano in LaLiga, a result which saw them slip to fourth, four points behind arch-rivals Real Madrid.

"The feeling is of happiness and of doing things well. We are progressing. But I don't feel liberated, I feel happy," the Spaniard said.

"You never solve all the problems at Barcelona, but it's a day to congratulate the team and the club for advancing.

"There are many things to improve, of course. We have to be humble. We have done some things very well, others not so," said Xavi, adding that he hoped the victory would be a turning point.

Barca next host Atletico Madrid in the league on Sunday.


Dortmund Proved Doubters Wrong by Escaping ‘Group of Death’, Says Terzic 

Dortmund's players celebrate after winning the Champions League group F soccer match between AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023. (AP)
Dortmund's players celebrate after winning the Champions League group F soccer match between AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023. (AP)
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Dortmund Proved Doubters Wrong by Escaping ‘Group of Death’, Says Terzic 

Dortmund's players celebrate after winning the Champions League group F soccer match between AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023. (AP)
Dortmund's players celebrate after winning the Champions League group F soccer match between AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023. (AP)

Borussia Dortmund had proved the doubters wrong by securing qualification from a Champions League group of heavy hitters, head coach Edin Terzic said, after his side won 3-1 at AC Milan on Tuesday.

Drawn alongside Paris St Germain, Newcastle United and Milan, Dortmund got off to a woeful start in their campaign by taking just a point from their opening two matches, but then won three games straight to ensure a top-two finish in Group F.

"We all remember that evening after the draw when they reported about the 'Group of Death,'" Terzic told reporters.

"We also remember the first game in Paris when everyone told us after the defeat now it's going to be difficult.

"And then after the 0-0 at home against Milan, they said, yes, now it's over. And then we went there as leaders in this group," he added.

Terzic said injury issues made things difficult ahead of the Milan game.

"We didn't talk about it like that before the game, but you got a message almost every 30 minutes, every 60 minutes," he added.

"The (doctor) came with new information, who can make the squad, who can't, who can play a half and who can't... it wasn't easy and yet the lads fought their way through it today."

The three other teams remain in contention for a spot in the knockout rounds going into the final round of fixtures on Dec. 13, with Dortmund hosting PSG and Milan visiting Newcastle.


Early Qualification Delights Atletico Coach Simeone 

Players of Atletico Madrid celebrate scoring the 1-3 goal during the UEFA Champions League group E soccer match between Feyenoord and Atletico Madrid in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 28 November 2023. (EPA)
Players of Atletico Madrid celebrate scoring the 1-3 goal during the UEFA Champions League group E soccer match between Feyenoord and Atletico Madrid in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 28 November 2023. (EPA)
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Early Qualification Delights Atletico Coach Simeone 

Players of Atletico Madrid celebrate scoring the 1-3 goal during the UEFA Champions League group E soccer match between Feyenoord and Atletico Madrid in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 28 November 2023. (EPA)
Players of Atletico Madrid celebrate scoring the 1-3 goal during the UEFA Champions League group E soccer match between Feyenoord and Atletico Madrid in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 28 November 2023. (EPA)

Securing qualification for the knockout stage of the Champions League with one game still play in the group phase delighted Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone after their 3-1 away win over Feyenoord in Rotterdam on Tuesday.

Atletico remained top of Group E on 11 points after winning away in the competition for the first time since beating Manchester United at Old Trafford in March 2022.

Their victory also guaranteed a berth in the last 16 for Lazio, who advanced to 10 points after beating Celtic in Rome earlier in the day, and eliminated Feyenoord from the race.

"The game the team played made me very happy. An offensively correct and defensively effective match," Simeone said. "A game with very good positional play, knowing that we could create difficulty for the opponent and from that came the first goal."

Feyenoord gave away a strange own goal as no one in their penalty box attempted to get onto a lopping ball into the danger area and it bounced in off defender Lutsharel Geertruida after 14 minutes.

In the second half Atletico went 2-0 ahead through Mario Hermoso, who hooked the ball into the opposite corner of the goal on the volley, but Feyenoord initiated a fight back through Mats Wieffer with 13 minutes left, only to see Atletico restore their two-goal advantage four minutes later through another own goal.

"I don't remember how long it's been since we qualified for the round of 16 with an advance date. That is something to highlight. The situation in our group was tight but we have managed our progress very well," added Simeone.

Asked at the post-match press conference whether Atletico could go on and pose a real challenge for the Champions League, he said: "We are here to compete with whoever we have to compete with. With humility and wanting to improve, we know our defects and from there we try to enhance our virtues."

They can enhance their options for the draw on Dec. 18 by finishing top of the group and will need only a draw at home to Lazio on Dec. 13 to ensure that.

"It is always important to finish as high as possible. We have not reached the last 16 with this kind of tranquility for years," Simeone said.