Club Atlético de Madrid striker Sergio Agüero kept his promise that the Spanish side would reach the UEFA Champions League group stage with a scintillating individual performance which helped his team to a 4-0 win over FC Schalke 04.
Agüero opened the scoring on 22 minutes before second-half goals from Diego Forlán, Luis García and Maxi Rodríguez made sure the Rojiblancos advanced 4-1 on aggregate to attain the group stage for the first time since 1996/97.
The result may have been emphatic, but Atlético started nervously and their captain Maxi Rodríguez had to seize the initiative. He released an ambitious volley after eight minutes before finding his way to the byline and attempting an unsuccessful cut-back for Agüero. Midway through the half, Forlán found space inside the Schalke area and although his shot beat goalkeeper Mathias Schober, Marcelo Bordon headed clear from the goalline. Luis Perea collected the loose ball on the right and crossed for the unmarked Agüero whose downward header bounced up off the upright and in.
The goal relaxed the hosts who almost went 2-0 up just after the half-hour when Agüero left the ball for Simão who rolled a shot back off the post. Not long after the restart Atlético did score their second and again Agüero was involved. His through ball in the 54th minute released Forlán who sprinted at the Schalke defence before jinking left and drilling a low effort across Schober. Schalke rallied but it was Atlético who almost shot themselves in the foot on two occasions – first John Heitinga then Perea frightened goalkeeper Leo Franco with some sloppy defending.
The Bundesliga outfit kept up the pressure with Fabian Ernst just failing to connect with Heiko Westermann's cross, before the latter had a close-range attempt saved by Franco. But it was not long before Atlético clinched their qualification and the star of the show helped conjure both goals. First Agüero crossed for Luis García to finish easily on 82 minutes. Then, four minutes later, he fed Simão who was upended in the box by Christian Pander – who was sent off for his troubles – and Maxi Rodríguez converted the penalty.