Atletico Madrid beat Chelsea 3-1 to set up a final date with Real Madrid
After Real Madrid’s defeat of Bayern on Tuesday night, it looked as though the script was all set for an all-Spanish affair at Lisbon. And, Diego Simeone’s team outclassed their opponents 3-1 to set up a mouth-watering derby as the fitting finale of this year’s Champions League.
After taking the lead in the first half thanks to a Torres goal, it looked as though everything was going to plan for Chelsea. But the visitors scored just before half-time to set up an exciting second half. And unlike the previous three halves in this tie, it was an open end-to-end affair in which Atletico came out on top to reach their first ever Champions League final.
The first-half, for the most part, was understandably filled with an air of caution, as both teams played as though they were almost afraid to go forward and attack. But it could have been completely different had Koke’s cross in the fourth minute, from near the left touch-line gone in. Fortunately for Chelsea, although the mishit cross beat Schwarzer, it hit the bar, before it went out for a corner.
In the 14th minute, Ramires made the most of a challenge by Koke and Chelsea had their first real chance from a central free kick just outside the box. But, with Lampard suspended, Willian stepped up, and couldn’t make too much of the chance.
But, moments later, it looked as though Gary Cahill’s misplaced pass that was intercepted by Felipe Luis near his own penalty area, was going to give Diego Costa with a perfect opportunity to open the scoring. But the Englishman came back just in time to block Costa’s effort from just inside the box.
A little while later Cahill was once at again at fault, but this time in bringing down the onrushing Costa. Thankfully, for Chelsea nothing came of the free kick, but Atletico were slowly but surely getting into the game as they mounted attack after attack from the left wing. Fortunately for Chelsea, they also managed to force the Atletico back-line into a couple of mistakes.
It looked as though it was going to take something special to breach either defense and that was precisely what happened as Chelsea opened the scoring. Willian appeared to be going nowhere on the right, but somehow the ball broke to Cesar Azpilicueta, who whipped a delightful cross for Torres, who swept a low right footed shot from eight yards past Courtois, thanks to a deflection off Miranda.
And just like that it looked as though Mourinho’s master plan was working. But just on the stroke of half-time an uncharacteristic defensive lapse meant that Atletico got the goal that they coveted. Hazard fell asleep on the cross as Juanfran put the ball back into the danger area, where Adrian Lopez was lurking. And Lopez justified his selection by slotting the ball home to give his side a crucial away goal.
With the visitors firmly in the driver’s seat, the second half was always going to be a much more open affair. And so it was proved as Atletico started the brighter of the two sides. And just like the first half, almost scored, this time Arda Turan’s effort was saved by Schwarzer.
With the game increasingly on a knife edge, something had to give. And it was Mourinho who blinked first by bringing on Eto’o for Ashley Cole. It proved to be a costly mistake as the Cameroonian striker gave away a penalty on the hour mark, which was converted by the previously anonymous Costa. And another mistake by Hazard meant that Arda Turan added another after a one-two with the bar with less than a quarter of an hour left to play to all but seal the Atletico’s place in the final.
On a day that was supposed to be about the Special One and his pursuit of a third European crown with a different club, Mourinho was left empty-handed as he lost his third semi-final in charge of the Blues. And, it was Simeone, the relative novice, who walked away from Stamford Bridge with his head held high.
All of which now means that it is going to be the two Madrid clubs who will now challenge for not just the League title, but the Champions League crown as well, in what promises to be a fascinating tactical battle in Lisbon next month.