Diego Simeone insisted Atletico Madrid had produced one of their best displays this season in Wednesday’s goalless Champions League draw with Club Brugge.
Atletico recorded 21 shots to Brugge’s five as they dominated at the Civitas Metropolitano, but their poor European form continued as they failed to make the breakthrough.
The result ensured Brugge will progress to the Champions League’s knockout stages for the first time in their history, but Atletico’s chances of joining them are in doubt after taking just four points from four games in Group B.
Atletico have now failed to score in five of their last six Champions League matches, including each of their last three, but Simeone refused to criticise their performance.
“We had important situations, well generated, we played one of the best games of this season, due to our rhythm, intensity, the rival,” Simeone said. “Many good things were seen, but the goal did not come.
“Morata’s chance is the one that remains in all of our minds, but the goalkeepers are here to stop and the players are here to be forceful or not.
“This round we did things very well, better than in the first leg against them. I keep a lot of good things, honestly.”
However, with Atletico rounding off their Group B campaign with tough tests against Porto and Bayer Leverkusen, Simeone is under no illusions as to what is now required.
“The classification was complicated, and we are in a place where the only good thing is that we have to win both games,” he added.
Brugge goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was the star of the show on Wednesday, denying Atleti on nine occasions.
The former Liverpool shot-stopper has now made 14 saves across two appearances against Atleti in the Champions League this season – the most any goalkeeper has made against a single opponent without conceding in a single campaign since records began (in 2003-04).
Speaking to Club RTL after the match, Mignolet said helping Brugge to the knockout stages ranked among the highlights of his career, saying: “I have already done a lot of things, but it was an incredible feeling with the team. A first in the history of the club. It’s a great moment.
“We needed everything to keep the clean sheet today. I had a good match, I made my saves but it was just necessary to keep the clean sheet.”