Atlético Madrid needed João Félix at his best to escape another Champions League disappointment.
Félix scored his second goal of the match in the 85th minute to give Atlético a 3-2 win over Salzburg in the Champions League on Tuesday, helping Diego Simeone's team rebound from an opening 4-0 loss at defending champion Bayern Munich.
“I think this was João Félix’s best match,” Simeone said. “He has played well in many games, but I think that today he was at a great level during the entire 90 minutes.”
Félix got the winner from close range after a cross into the area. He controlled the ball and sent a right-footed shot into the net.
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Marcos Llorente also scored for Atlético, which trailed early in the second half at the empty Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Salzburg got on the board with goals by Dominik Szoboszlai and Mergim Berisha late in the first half and shortly after the break.
Atlético had entered the day in last place in Group A after the loss to Bayern, which stayed at the top with six points after a 2-1 win at Lokomotiv Moscow earlier Tuesday. Atlético is now second with three points, two more than Lokomotiv and Salzburg.
“It was a great match by the whole team,” Félix said. “We are happy, we played well. If we continue like this the results will come.”
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Called by some in Portugal as the new Cristiano Ronaldo, Félix arrived from Benfica last season as Antoine Griezmann’s replacement but was yet to meet expectations with Atlético.
“He will keep improving,” Simeone said. “With João Félix playing well, our team will be a lot more competitive.”
But despite having Félix and veteran Uruguay striker Luis Suárez up front, Atlético struggled to create many significant scoring opportunities during parts of the match. Salzburg threatened with its fast counterattacks, especially after Atlético went a goal down and gave up spaces on defense.
The hosts had opened the scoring with Llorente’s shot from outside the area in the 29th, but Salzburg rallied with the goals by Szoboszlai in the 40th and Berisha in the 47th.
Félix, who nearly scored when his acrobatic volley hit the crossbar in the first half, had equalized from close range in the 52nd.
“It’s tough to come away with just one point from six in our first two games," Salzburg coach Jesse Marsch said. “We’ve deserved more but we can take pride from how we’ve played.”
Suárez, who had scored in the Spanish league on Saturday, was substituted in the second half with the game tied 2-2.
In the next round in November, Atlético visits Lokomotiv Moscow and Salzburg hosts Bayern.