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Atlético seal return to Europe's élite

Published: Tuesday 25 August 2009, 23.30CET
Club Atlético de Madrid 2-0 Panathinaikos FC (agg: 5-2)
The Spanish side will play in the group stage for the second successive season after overcoming ten-man Panathinaikos.
by Paul Bryan
from Vicente Calderón
Atlético seal return to Europe's élite
Atlético players celebrate against Panathinaikos ©Getty Images
Published: Tuesday 25 August 2009, 23.30CET

Atlético seal return to Europe's élite

Club Atlético de Madrid 2-0 Panathinaikos FC (agg: 5-2)
The Spanish side will play in the group stage for the second successive season after overcoming ten-man Panathinaikos.

Club Atlético de Madrid advanced to the UEFA Champions League group stage with a 2-0 second-leg victory against ten-man Panathinaikos FC.

Group-stage return
Loukas Vintra's own goal set the hosts on their way and Sergio Agüero's 83rd-minute strike capped a successful night for Atlético who secured a 5-2 aggregate play-off win and, with it, a place in Europe's top club competition for the second successive season. Djibril Cissé was sent off for the visitors who made it to the first knockout round last season, but will have to settle for a place in the UEFA Europa League group stage in 2009/10.

Early setback
The Greek side had never won a competitive match in their ten previous visits to Spain yet coach Henk ten Cate insisted his charges would have chances in Madrid and after just three minutes, Sotiris Ninis proved him right when the 19-year-old fizzed a shot from the left into the side-netting. Panathinaikos suffered a heavy blow just seconds later, however, when defender Vintra inadvertently handed Atlético a 4-2 aggregate lead by steering Diego Forlán's centre into his own net.

Atlético danger
The home side continued to look threatening as the half progressed with Forlán, Agüero and Simão combining well to keep the opposition defence on full alert. At the other end Sebastian Leto – who netted his team's second goal in the first leg – forced Sergio Asenjo to fumble a long-range effort before the Spain Under-21 goalkeeper gathered at the second attempt. Agüero could have put the hosts further ahead not long after the half-hour mark but just failed to reach Simão's centre while Vintra failed to atone for his earlier error when he headed Leto's cross over the top when well placed.

Cissé dismissed
The visitors appeared deflated without their inspirational captain Giorgos Karagounis – who missed the game with a foot injury – and began the second half on the back foot as Abel Resino's men looked to extend their lead. Antonio López fired wide from outside the box and the same player then sent a free-kick past the left-hand post. Forlán should have done better with a 70th-minute header that was easily saved by Mario Galinović before Cissé received a straight red card for a challenge on Paulo Assunção seconds later. Agüero then burst through on the left before firing past Galinović and into the far corner. Leto and Lazaros Hristodoulopoulos could have reduced the arrears late on but Asenjo dealt soundly with both their shots.

Last updated: 26/08/09 9.47CET

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