PORTO, Portugal (AP) — Atlético Madrid found a way to win again in the Champions League when it needed the most.
After three straight losses, Atlético made an improbable comeback with a last-round 3-1 win over Porto to advance to the knockout stage of the European competition on Tuesday.
Antoine Griezmann and Ángel Correa scored second-half goals for Atlético, which had entered the final round in last place in Group B and could only advance with a win and some help from already qualified Liverpool.
Group winner Liverpool won 2-1 at AC Milan, allowing Atlético to go from last to second in the group with its win at Porto. Liverpool ended with 18 points from six wins, with Atlético finishing with seven points and Porto with five points, one more than Milan.
“This match and this group-stage campaign sums up just what Atleti is all about,” Griezmann said. “We are a true group and we need everyone to do their bit to get to where we want to. We never stop believing.”
Diego Simeone’s team had lost its last three Champions League games — against Liverpool twice and to Milan — and was facing its second group-stage elimination in nine seasons.
It was a tense match in Portugal, with both teams having players sent off after altercations three minutes apart in the second half.
Atlético’s Yanick Carrasco saw a red card after shoving Porto’s Otávio to the ground in the 67th, then Wendell was shown his red after pushing an Atlético player away with his arm. Wendell had entered the match seven minutes earlier.
Porto also had reserve goalkeeper Agustín Marchesín sent off for complaining from the bench.
Griezmann scored from close range in the 56th minute after a defender deflected the ball backward inside the area after a corner kick cross. Correa sealed the win — and the classification — in a breakaway in the 90th after an assist by Griezmann. Rodrigo De Paul added the third in stoppage time.
Porto’s lone goal came from a penalty kick converted by Sérgio Oliveira just before the final whistle.
Atlético entered the match with the same four points as AC Milan but with a worse goal difference. It needed to win by at least one goal more than AC Milan. A win or a draw would have been enough for Porto, which sat on five points entering the last round.
Atlético had reached the knockout stage seven times in the last eight seasons, with its only setback in 2017-18. This was Atlético’s ninth consecutive group-stage appearance, and it had made it to the knockout rounds in nine of its last 11 appearances. It was eliminated by eventual champion Chelsea in the round of 16 last season.
Porto had reached the last 16 in each of its last four group-stage appearances. It eliminated Juventus last season before losing to Chelsea in the quarterfinals.
Simeone had to improvise by using midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia as a central defender because of the suspension of Felipe and injuries to José María Giménez and Stefan Savic.
Atlético lost star striker Luis Suárez 13 minutes into the match because of an injury.
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