MADRID (Reuters) - Antoine Griezmann emerged from a personal slump in spectacular fashion when he helped Atletico Madrid to beat Roma 2-0 in Champions League Group C on Wednesday and retain their slim chance of qualifying for the last 16.
When the French forward was jeered off by some Atletico fans during the derby clash with Real Madrid which finished goalless on Saturday, coach Diego Simeone defended him, saying he would stick with his ‘family’ to the death.
Griezmann repaid the coach, and the fans who chanted his name at the Wanda Metropolitano against Roma, with a stunning scissor-kick strike which broke both the deadlock and his goal drought.
Griezmann slammed home Angel Correa’s cross in the 69th minute to score his first goal in nine matches and bring palpable relief to both the supporters and Simeone.
Kevin Gameiro’s 85th-minute strike sealed the win and it was Griezmann who played the inch-perfect pass that allowed his compatriot through on goal.
Simeone let out a relieved sigh in his news conference after the game when asked about Griezmann’s goal.
“We started to win the game in the first minute when the fans applauded Griezmann and (Fernando) Torres. This team has a lot of heart,” said Simeone.
“We had the responsibility to win today and we did it. It was an extraordinary goal, with great attacking work by the whole team.”
This season Griezmann has been far from his best and Atletico have suffered for it. They are fourth and 10 points behind leaders Barcelona in La Liga, and are still under threat of elimination in the Champions League.
The Frenchman wants to use his spectacular goal and this win as a springboard for the weeks and months to come.
“We will fight to the end. We know it was important to win today and later we will see what happens,” said Griezmann.
“I’m happy for my goal, for my team mates who are those that help me. I hope we can improve, me first of all. I try to give my best in each game and now I have to continue working.
“We have a great game to play (the final group match against Chelsea on Dec. 5) in a beautiful stadium; we will go there to win.”
Atletico must win that match and hope Roma either draw or lose against Qarabag to qualify in second place behind Chelsea. It is still a tall order but Griezmann’s goal has given the side a boost.
Reporting by Rik Sharma; editing by Clare Fallon