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Perfect Atlético on brink of knockout stages

Club Atlético de Madrid 2-1 A. Académica de Coimbra
Second-half goals from Diego Costa and Emre Belözoğlu helped the holders stretch their unbeaten run to a club record 21 games in all competitions.

Emre Belözoğlu (centre) celebrates his fine free-kick
Emre Belözoğlu (centre) celebrates his fine free-kick ©AFP/Getty Images

UEFA Europa League holders Club Atlético de Madrid maintained their 100% start to Group A with a 2-1 victory against A. Académica de Coimbra.

Looking to extend their unbeaten run to a club record 21 games, Diego Simeone's side forged ahead courtesy of Diego Costa's volley shortly after half-time. Emre Belözoğlu's first goal for the club – a wonderfully struck free-kick that drew Simeone's applause – made it 2-0 and that proved crucial as Salim Cissé's header halved the deficit late on.

The hosts made seven changes to the side that started Sunday's victory at Real Sociedad de Fútbol but were cohesive from the start and threatened early on when Adrián López fired into the side netting.

Prior to the encounter, Académica forward Wilson Eduardo had said his team would look to surprise their opponents as they sought a first win in European competition since 1969. They almost did just that when the Portuguese Under-21 international sprinted onto goalkeeper Ricardo's punt before sending a low shot into the arms of Sergio Asenjo.

As rain swept across the Vicente Calderón, the home side began to take a foothold in the contest, with Emre and Diego Costa both trying their luck from distance. Spurred on by the incentive of extending their winning streak in European competition to 16 games, the Colchoneros hit the front three minutes after the restart when Koke's right-footed corner was flicked on by Tiago towards Diego Costa, who acrobatically volleyed in from close range.

An Adrián effort was well-stopped by Ricardo shortly afterwards, but there was nothing the goalkeeper could do about Emre's free-kick on 67 minutes as it nestled in the top corner. Académica's vociferous fans were given hope when Cissé headed in Marinho's lofted pass, but Atlético held on – and if they win in Portugal in a fortnight, they will be through with two games to spare.

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