Atlético Madrid had one job to do. They needed a result to go their way in Rome, sure, but beating Qarabag was the first and only thing Atlético had any say in.
They couldn’t manage it.
After being involved in the game that saw Qarabag win their first-ever point in Champions League two weeks ago, they lent a hand for their second-ever point in the competition too.
Atlético got off to a more industrious start, but that soon faded. Qarabag crowded out the middle and an unimaginative Atlético couldn’t find a way through. Even when they did, it seemed they were too disjointed to threaten. Atleti found life without Koke tough going and they failed to assert control on the game in the opening 45.
Pedro Henrique was a nuisance on the right of the visitors’ midfield and they started to dominate despite lacking clear chances on goal. That was until the 40th minute, when ex-Getafe midfielder Míchel headed past Jan Oblak from a corner as the set-piece proved to be Atlético’s kryptonite once again.
The second half arrived with a fired-up Atlético on the field and off it, with the fans urging their team not to let them down. That worked to start with a couple of chances going Atlético’s way, but Kévin Gameiro missed a rebound from a saved Ángel Correa shot and it was as-you-were once again.
If anything, Qarabag looked more comfortable. They nearly had their second but Stefan Savić saved off the line from a low cross. Just minutes later, though, Atlético were back in it when Thomas Partey received a ball from Antoine Griezmann the right and curled one past Ibrahim Šehić and into the top corner of the net to bring the scores level.
Atlético were given further hope when Pedro Henrique stretched with his right foot in the air from a long ball and happened to catch Diego Godín’s forehead. He was given a red card on the hour and Qarabag had lost their most creative player. Atleti pushed and pushed with a man up for nearly half an hour, but it just wasn’t happening as Savić also saw red for a second yellow late on.
With Roma hammering Chelsea 3-0, Atlético need to win out and wait for yet more results to go their way in the last two rounds of the group stage, as the crisis that has beset Simeone and Atlético shows no signs of easing off.