MADRID (AP)No matter how, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was going to make sure Club Brugge got the point it needed to advance to the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time in three decades.
Mignolet made save after save, including one with his face in the final minutes at the Metropolitano Stadium, as Club Brugge held Atletico Madrid to a 0-0 draw Wednesday to become only the second Belgian club to reach the round of 16 in the Champions League.
”I’m glad I was able to play such a big role for my team again,” said Mignolet, who is yet to concede in four Champions League games this season. ”I wasn’t really thinking about a clean sheet. It’s a nice bonus, of course.”
Among Mignolet’s nine saves was a remarkable one with his face on a late close-range shot by Alvaro Morata.
”I just smashed all my body and was able to stop it with my head,” the 34-year-old goalkeeper said. ”The end justifies the means I guess.”
Mignolet and his teammates celebrated wildly after the match as Club Brugge secured a spot in the round of 16 for the first time since that phase was introduced in 2003-04. In 1992-93, it reached the last eight, which at that time was called the group stage. Club Brugge also played in the final of the 1978 European Cup, losing to Liverpool.
”This is a dream,” said Mignolet, the former Liverpool goalkeeper. ”We fought until the end and we finally did it. In previous years, it just didn’t work out for us. We felt this year would be different, and now qualification is ours. But our story doesn’t end here. Let’s see how far we can go.”
Club Brugge has been one of the surprises of the group stage and needed at least a draw to follow up on Gent’s qualification to the last 16 in 2015-16.
The setback left Atletico in a difficult position to advance from Group B as Club Brugge moved to 10 points, six more than the Spanish club. Atletico dropped two points behind Porto, which later won 3-0 at last-place Bayer Leverkusen. The German club stayed with three points.
In the next round of matches, Club Brugge hosts Porto, while Atletico hosts Leverkusen.
”It’s tough,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. ”There is only one thing we can try to do now, which is to win our last two matches.”
It was Atletico’s third straight match without a win in the European competition.
”We created many chances but couldn’t get the ball to go in,” Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak said. ”Mignolet had a great match and stopped everything. I congratulate him.”
Club Brugge had a penalty kick reversed after video review in the first half. The Belgian side saw Kamal Sowah sent off in the 82nd for kicking the ball away after a stoppage in play.
Antoine Griezmann started after Atletico and Barcelona reached a deal for his permanent transfer, but the France forward couldn’t give the hosts the spark they needed.
Griezmann had one of Atletico’s best scoring chances but couldn’t capitalize. Matheus Cunha also missed with a shot from close range in stoppage time.
Griezmann now can play as much as Simeone likes after Atletico acquired him for 20 million euros ($19.4 million) plus variables. He had been playing only after the 60-minute mark because Atletico wanted to avoid paying extra to Barcelona in his loan contract with the Catalan club.
Griezmann hasn’t scored in nine straight matches for club and country, since a crucial late winner in Atletico’s 2-1 win against Porto in the group-stage opener in September, more than a month ago.
Atletico is trying to avoid elimination in the group stage for the first time since 2017-18. It has advanced in eight of the last nine seasons.
Club Brugge defeated Atletico 2-0 in the previous round for its 14th Champions League win, a record among Belgian teams in the competition, surpassing the mark previously set by Anderlecht.
Atletico’s other loss was at Leverkusen. Club Brugge also won at Porto and against Leverkusen.
Atletico had won all three games against Club Brugge at home, including as recently as 2018.
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