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Atlético starting to dream again

Published: Friday 23 November 2012, 7.54CET
Club Atlético de Madrid are through to the last 32 and, as Raúl García and Jorge Pulido spoke to, talk of another UEFA Europa League final is no longer off the menu.
by Paul Bryan
from Estadio Vicente Calderón
Atlético starting to dream again
Atlético midfielder Raúl García (R) celebrates with team-mates after scoring ©AFP/Getty Images
Published: Friday 23 November 2012, 7.54CET

Atlético starting to dream again

Club Atlético de Madrid are through to the last 32 and, as Raúl García and Jorge Pulido spoke to, talk of another UEFA Europa League final is no longer off the menu.

Raúl García's early strike was enough to earn Club Atlético de Madrid victory against Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC in the UEFA Europa League. While the midfielder was quick to tell that – their last-32 place now confirmed – winning their final Group B match away to FC Viktoria Plzeň is the next target, talk of a third final in four years is also starting to circulate. Hapoel defenders John Pantsil and Zeev Haimovich, meanwhile, said they were proud of their team's efforts in the Spanish capital.

Raúl García, Atlético midfielder
We discussed before the match that we would look to take the game to them for a number of reasons – we were playing at home, we were favourites to win and we wanted to finish top of the group to avoid certain teams in the next round.

We are trying to do things right on a day-to-day basis and we'll see where that leaves us at the end of the campaign. We will go into our last game against second-placed Viktoria Plzeň looking for three points. You would imagine in that match they will need to take more risks as they must beat us to finish top.

Jorge Pulido, Atlético defender
We're very happy. The objective was to win and we did just that. Our coach, Diego Simeone, wants us to go one step at a time and he wanted us to get three points tonight. We would like another three against Viktoria in our last game, because a bad result would see them overtaking us. It's important to finish first so you can avoid the more in-form teams in the next stage. At Atlético, you are always hoping for the very best and let's cross our fingers that we can achieve the same success as we did last year. 

John Pantsil
, Hapoel defender
We tried our best to take a point, even all three. They scored an early goal which threw us off our game a little. We did well overall, though, and tried to stick to the plan our coach laid out for us. There are a lot of young players in this team who sometimes need a lift and our coach tries to keep them going.

When I was at Fulham we reached the [2009/10] UEFA Europa League final against Atlético and tonight, like then, it was a good game. This tournament is very strong, very difficult. Our last match in the group [at home to A. Académica de Coimbra] is one we have to win for our fans because we feel we can't end up with just one point from the entire group stage.

Zeev Haimovich, Hapoel defender

I think, for us, it was a good match. We already missed our chance to qualify for the next stage so we came here wanting to prove we can play football. Of course Atlético are a better team than us but I am still proud of my team-mates tonight. Prior to the game our coach spoke about coming here to win.

Everybody may have been thinking this was going to be an easy game for them but we wanted to show honour and respect and do the best we could. Unfortunately we have taken only one point in the group so, in that respect, it hasn't been successful, but we will look to continue on the path we have started down with our performance here. We are going to refocus on the Israeli league as we aim to be champions this season.   

Last updated: 01/05/13 9.15CET