By William Schomberg
LONDON, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Chelsea surrendered the top spot in the Champions League Group C when they drew 1-1 at home against Spain’s Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.
Chelsea, who had already secured their place in the knockout phase, finished second in the group behind Italy’s AS Roma, while Atletico, finalists in 2014 and 2016, will drop into the Europa League after finishing third.
“Football is about finishing at the end of the day and it’s clear we’ve not done that in the Champions League this year and we have paid the price,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said.
“It’s not good to be out of the Champions League but there is still a long season ahead and we will be assessed at the end of it.
“It’s not a disaster. It’s a situation that can happen.”
Atletico took the lead in the 56th minute when Saul Niguez headed in at the far post after flick on by former Chelsea striker Fernando Torres following a corner.
The goal was tough on Chelsea who had created a string of chances while Atletico barely troubled the hosts in the first 45 minutes.
Chelsea’s pressure paid off in the 75th minute when Atletico defender Stefan Savic turned an Eden Hazard cross into his own net, setting up a climactic end to the game as both sides pushed for a winning goal.
Spain striker Alvaro Morata fired at Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak when he looked sure to score and Brazil winger Willian wasted an even better chance when he blazed an effort high and wide in the 82nd minute.
Substitute Michy Batshuayi went close in added time when his angled shot flew just wide of Oblak’s post.
Chelsea’s head coach Antonio Conte was at least content with his side’s attacking intent and creativity looking ahead to the next round.
“We tried to play our game and win. In the first half we tried to push, we created many chances to score and we conceded a goal from a corner,” he said.
“When you play this way and create so much you must be satisfied. Our (next) opponent won’t be happy to play against us.” (Editing by Toby Davis and Christian Radnedge)