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Club Atlético de Madrid defender Antonio López remains confident his side can advance to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals despite Los Rojiblancos being held to a 0-0 draw by nine-man Sporting Clube de Portugal at the Vicente Calderón Stadium.
The Leões proved stubborn opponents for Quique Sánchez Flores's team, especially after Leandro Grimi was sent off for a second bookable offence shortly after the half-hour. The visitors' numbers were reduced again when Tonel saw red before the end, yet López was far from downbeat about Atlético's inability to make their numerical advantage count.
"You could see that we tried to push forward during the whole game and we had chances, especially when they lost a man after 30 minutes," he told UEFA.com. "We tried everything, going down the wings, through the centre and trying to hit crosses, but we just couldn't break through. The positive things are that the performance of our team wasn't bad and it was important that we didn't concede."
Although next Thursday's return at the Estádio José Alvalade is evenly poised, the Atlético captain believes the result in the Spanish capital affords his team a slight edge. "We know if we score there they must do so twice so we believe that's a small advantage for us," he said. "It's going to be difficult but we know we have a chance."
Sporting goalkeeper Rui Patrício, meanwhile, reflected on an industrious display by his team as they desperately attempted to keep the hosts' strikers quiet. "We had to play with our heads and our hearts mainly because of that first sending off," he said. "It was very difficult keeping a clean sheet because of their forwards but we demonstrated today that we have a good team.
"Our fans here tonight were also crucial to us," the 22-year-old added before predicting another big performance in the decider. "Next time we'll have the home factor with us and we're ready to show our supporters what we are capable of; we are ready to go through."
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