Champions League: Atlético 1 – 0 Barcelona
Atlético advance to semifinals of the Champions League
Atlético Madrid have qualified for the semifinals of the Champions League for the first time in over 40 years after taking care of Barcelona at the Vicente Calderón.
Despite losing out by a single goal, the Catalans were no match for Cholo’s Colchoneros as Atlético beat their guests on aggression, intensity, passion and the support of a nation in red and white.
An early goal by Koke decided the two legged tie, which was won by Atleti 2-1 on aggregate. The midfielder scored in a hectic first quarter hour when Atleti completely overran Barcelona. After Adrián hit the post, the ball was picked up by Koke who found Villa on his left. The Asturian’s cross was headed back by Adrián to Koke, who volleyed the ball in with his left to make the Vicente Calderón explode.
Atlético smelled the fear of their opponents and pushed forward even more, hitting the post a second time through David Villa after the excellent Gabi picked off Busquets in midfield. And still within the first twenty minutes Atleti again struck the woodwork when Villa hit the crossbar a third time.
Despite the series of chances for the home side, the teams were separated by a single goal and Lionel Messi nearly tied it up with a header from close range. In the 25th minute the Argentinian again had a big opportunity to score, but he failed to make the most of Neymar’s excellent run. It were the only two times Messi made an appearance as the world’s best player was completely invisible for most of the game. Andrés Iniesta, last week’s best player, was also shut down by Gabi and Tiago and was taken off well before the final whistle as Barcelona struggled to break down Atleti’s defence.
There was one moment in the second half where the old maestro Xavi cut through the Atleti defence like a knife through butter when he played a perfect ball into the path of Neymar. The Brazilian made a great incisive run but failed to take the ball past Courtois, who then did extremely well to force Messi wide. With the ball still in play it was crossed back in, but Xavi failed to capitalize on Courtois slipping and the midfielder put it wide from only a couple of yards out.
After an hour of play Diego Simeone took off Adrián, who turned in his best performance of the season, for Diego and from that point on Atleti took control. Barcelona’s spirits faded as the Rojiblanco defence proved inpenetrable and Atleti started hurting the Culés on the counter. A number of opportunities were created, but Gabi missed 1-on-1 with Pinto and Tiago saw his shot blocked. At the other end Neymar headed just wide, while Diego Ribas nearly beat Pinto with a low drive.
Atleti’s confidence grew as the final whistle came closer, as the players and fans realized they were on the verge of qualifying for the semifinals. Cristian Rodríguez could’ve put the cherry on top of this fantastic performance, but his shot was saved by Pinto. It didn’t matter, as the 1-0 result was more than enough for Atleti to advance.
|UEFA Champions League|
|Estadio Vicente Calderón|
|09 April 2014|
|C. Rodríguez (79')|