MOSCOW (Reuters) – Atletico Madrid’s bid for a second successive Europa League crown ended in freezing Moscow on Thursday when they only managed a 1-0 win over Rubin Kazan in their last-32 second-leg match and limped out 2-1 on aggregate.
A 2-0 success for the Russian side in last week’s first leg in Madrid, including a second goal in the fifth minute of added time, had left Diego Simeone’s team with a difficult task on the artificial pitch at a near-empty Luzhniki Stadium.
Atletico’s Colombia striker Radamel Falcao struck the winner in the 84th minute but it was too late and Rubin progressed to a last 16 tie against another Spanish side Levante.
Their Argentine coach decided to leave a host of regular starters back in Spain, suggesting the club are focusing on maintaining second spot in La Liga and securing a berth in the more prestigious Champions League next term.
Atletico missed the creativity of Arda Turan and Koke and although Falcao twice went close they struggled to break through the massed ranks of Rubin defenders and could not find the net until six minutes from time.
Forward Adrian was a constant threat for the La Liga side and it was his storming run into the penalty area that set up Falcao to give the Spanish club a sliver of hope.
They pressed for the goal that would have take the game to extra time but Rubin held firm despite losing captain Cesar Navas to a straight red card for a wild lunge on Falcao a minute from time.
"Above all in football it’s important to know how to compete and once again the team showed it is full of men," Simeone told a news conference trying to find some positives in defeat.
"That will help us keep strengthening the team and the group," he added.
"Some were saying that we came here with a weakened team but even leaving seven behind in Madrid you saw that Atletico has very competitive players.
"It wasn’t enough to get through but with those we came with we were in good shape."
Rubin, whose win at the Calderon ended Atletico’s run of 19 straight home wins in all competitions and a 12-game home winning streak in Europe, will next month play Levante who won 1-0 at Olympiakos Piraeus for a 4-0 aggregate victory.
(Writing by Iain Rogers in Madrid, editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris)
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