Brendan Rodgers had previously stated that Celtic was not just a supporting team, but this time they were not even able to perform at that level. It is highly likely that they will not be a part of the European competition for much longer, as they are currently at the bottom of Group E with only one point. Their 6-0 loss to Atlético Madrid not only eliminates their chances of advancing in the Champions League, but also decreases their chances of being placed in the Europa League. The statistics do not accurately reflect the magnitude of this defeat; with two goals each from Antoine Griezmann and Álvaro Morata, as well as one goal each from substitutes Samuel Lino and Saúl Ñíguez, and a shot count of 27-1, it is evident that there is a significant gap between these two teams.
The Celtic coach could have argued that his team deserved more than just one point in Madrid. They had shown moments of strength against Feyenoord, Atlético, and Lazio and had impressed opponents with their high-quality and intense style of play. However, in this particular game, they were unable to compete. The strong Atlético team did not give them any chance. It must also be noted that the team did not help themselves either. According to Rodgers, a still image on the screen did not help either, as VAR once again caused controversy.
Atlético had a streak of 15 consecutive wins at this location, making it a difficult task regardless. However, with Daizen Maeda being sent off early and playing with only 10 players for most of the game, it became impossible. Before the game, Rodgers had acknowledged the importance of securing a favorable outcome. However, after the game, the focus shifted to simply surpassing last year’s points total instead of advancing or securing a spot in the Europa League. Any hope of extending their European schedule beyond the last two games was quickly extinguished at the start of this one.
Rodgers believed that his team had a strong start, but the level of football here is more advanced and less forgiving. When Callum McGregor’s header landed at Griezmann’s feet near the edge of the field, he skillfully controlled it and scored his first goal by sliding it past Cameron Carter-Vickers’ boot. According to the Celtic coach, this could have been prevented.
Five minutes in, Atlético were already a goal up. Five minutes later it might have been two, a wonderful sweeping move taking them from one area to the other, where McGregor had to block Rodrigo Riquelme. And five minutes after that, they were a man up as well, when the referee, Ivan Kruzliak, was called to the VAR screen to take a second look at a challenge from Maeda on Mario Hermoso, replacing the initial yellow with a red when he saw a set of studs planted on Hermoso’s shin.
“That was a significant moment,” Rodgers asserted. “The initial image displayed was with the foot raised, which does not accurately reflect the challenge. The introduction of VAR is evident: it resembles more of a video game, with decisions being made away from the pitch. The referee’s original decision was influenced and subsequently changed. This led to some incredible goals being scored from various angles.”
Before that moment, Maeda had been the player who seemed most capable of causing problems for Atlético. One impressive nutmeg in particular stood out, putting Griezmann in a position to stop the threat. However, after that, no one else managed to make much of an impact. Atlético took charge and maintained their hold on the game. Griezmann, especially, moved effortlessly on the field. He truly is a remarkable player, excelling in every aspect of the game. He and Riquleme worked together brilliantly for a shot that went over the goal soon after and consistently found openings with seemingly little effort.
If there was a concern for Atlético, it was that they may have found the match too easy. There was a moment of alarm when Morata nearly scored an own goal, forcing Jan Oblak to make a quick save, while the lead was still only one goal. Griezmann later emphasized the importance of respecting opponents by competing, rather than playing around. This mindset was evident in their performance. Nahuel Molina missed a volley, Morata’s goal was disallowed for being offside, and Joe Hart saved a shot from Griezmann before they finally scored their second goal just before halftime. The goal was impressive as well, with Griezmann’s 30-yard diagonal pass finding José María Giménez, who headed it towards Morata for the finish.
Despite their relentless efforts, Hart managed to save a shot from Ángel Correa. Giménez then hit the crossbar, followed by Griezmann’s impressive volley for the third goal. He was later substituted to a standing ovation, with Riquelme taking his place. However, the home team’s ambition continued as they aimed to entertain their fans and cause more misery for the Celtic supporters. Shortly after Griezmann’s substitution, Lino scored a brilliant fourth goal. Morata’s shot for the fifth goal was even more impressive. Saúl then scored from close range, making it the sixth goal and proving the inevitable reality of the game.