Diego Simeone: Atletico not 'effective' enough to reach round of 16
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said his team had paid for a lack of effectiveness through the group stages after Tuesday's 1-1 draw at Chelsea saw them crash out of the Champions League.
Saul Niguez's header on the hour mark gave Atletico hope of a miracle turnaround, but news of Roma's 1-0 victory over Qarabag in the group's other final game ensured that the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finalists would not be progressing to this season's last-16.
Defender Stefan Savic deflected Eden Hazard's shot into own net for the equaliser on the night, but the real damage had been done earlier in the group with Atletico drawing both games with Azerbaijani outsiders Qarabag and losing in the last minute to Chelsea at home.
After finishing third in the group, Simeone's side will now be playing Europa League football after the winter break, and the coach told reporters after the game that his team had not played well over the six games.
"Above all in football it is about being effective, more than possession or tactics," he said. "It is clear that we did not have that in this Champions League we have played. And we have paid for that.
"But the team has played well, worked hard, just lost one game, in the 93rd minute. This is not an excuse, just the reality. It is not good to be out of the Champions League, but the season is very long and we will judge it at the end."
Simeone said he was proud of the effort his team put in at Stamford Bridge, even knowing for the last quarter of the game that Roma were winning and their chances were all but over.
"We looked for it until the end," he said. "I am proud of the team, we worked hard, were competitive. We just tried to do what we could do in the game. This type of situations for me, aside from not going through, for sure it was a step forward for the team. They did not stop trying for it. We have a bittersweet taste."
Simeone said that the final group standings did not lie, although he admitted the results throughout the group had been difficult to explain.
"[Roma] were not worse as they got more points than the other teams," the former Lazio midfielder said. "In the end we got more points [four] from games against the group winners [Roma] than the bottom side [Qarabag].
"We have learned things, we can improve for sure, but we were always competitive through the group."
The last time Atletico were knocked out of the UCL group stage was in 2009-10, when they dropped down to the Europa League and ended up winning the competition.
"A new challenge has opened for us, something new for battle for," Simeone said. "Everything that is bad for us can become something good. We still have a very exciting season in front of us.
"We are going well, which is difficult to explain when we are out of the Champions League but we are. We still have the same responsibility -- we are motivated no matter what the competition once we pull on an Atletico Madrid jersey."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan