Atletico Madrid sealed their Champions League knockout stage berth after an industrious performance topped off by a sublime Yannick Carrasco goal helped them to a 2-0 win at Salzburg in their Group A match on Wednesday.
The result left Atletico second in the group on nine points from six games, seven behind group winners Bayern Munich who sealed their progress earlier and were 2-0 home winners over Lokomotiv Moscow.
Third-placed Salzburg finished on four points and will carry on in the Europa League last 32 after the winter break while bottom team Lokomotiv (three points) have been eliminated.
Salzburg wasted a string of chances, with Mergim Berisha hitting the post in the second minute, before defender Mario Hermoso fired the visitors ahead against the run of play in the 39th minute.
Carrasco floated in a free kick and the ball came off the left back’s shoulder en route to sailing into the back of the net inside the far post, past Salzburg’s stranded goalkeeper Cican Stankovic.
Playmaker Dominik Szoboszlai missed a sitter early in the second half after a flowing move and Enock Mwepu also hit the woodwork for the home side in the 77th minute before Salzburg were punished again for their profligacy.
Atletico’s second goal was one of pure quality as substitute Angel Correa raced down the right flank and delivered an inch-perfect cross for Carrasco to blast home a superb first-time volley from inside the penalty area.
Atletico manager Diego Simeone praised his team and Carrasco in particular.
“We never thought it would be simple because Salzburg are a team who play with high intensity,” he said.
“Carrasco was fantastic in the second half and he must carry on like this because at this level he is a different player and a very important one for the team.”