MADRID (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin called on his team mates and the club’s fans to stick together after a dismal 1-1 draw at home to Qarabag on Wednesday left his side almost certainly facing an early Champions League exit.
Godin was one of several Atletico players who failed to convert a flurry of late chances against the little fancied Azerbaijan champions, who took a shock lead at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium through a header by Spaniard Michel.
Thomas Partey’s long-range strike pulled Atletico level and everything seemed set up for Diego Simeone’s side to grab a winner when Qarabag had Pedro Henrique sent off on the hour for a stamp on Godin, but visiting goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic made a string of impressive saves to help secure an unlikely draw.
Atletico, who were held to a goalless stalemate by Qarabag two weeks ago in Baku, also finished with 10 men when Stefan Savic earned a second booking in the 88th minute. The have won only one of their last eight games in all competitions.
The club’s supporters are renowned for their loyalty but boos rang around their new ground after the final whistle.
“We have to stay together in these moments and the fans need to keep supporting us,” Uruguay defender Godin told reporters.
“We are on a bad run and at times like these we have to all give a little more and support our team mates. Booing is normal, it has existed longer than football has, but we need to be self critical and not look the other way.”
Atletico have been one of the most consistent sides in the Champions League in the last four years, reaching the final in 2014 and 2016 and the semi-finals of the last campaign, losing every time to bitter local rivals Real Madrid.
But a failure to win any of their first four games this season has left them trailing Group C leaders Roma by five points and second-placed Chelsea by four, meaning their future in the competition is out of their own hands.
In all likelihood, they will need to beat Roma and Chelsea in their final two games and hope either the Italians or Premier League champions drop points against Qarabag.
If they draw with Roma in their next outing, they will need Chelsea to lose to Qarabag to have any chance of moving forward.
“We are feeling very disappointed,” said captain Gabi.
“This team’s identity is based on conceding very few goals and scoring from the few chances we create. Now things have changed, we concede more goals and no matter how many chances we create we can’t seem to score.”
Atletico’s motto in the last few years has been “Never stop believing”, but Gabi admitted his side’s days in the Champions League this season look numbered.
“No-one has said the word impossible but what hurts us the most is that we no longer depend on ourselves,” he said.
“Right now we are heading out. We still have a chance, but it’s a very remote chance.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; eediting by Ken Ferris