Atletico Madrid will play Real Madrid in Champions League final
Atletico defeated Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge
Two teams drew 0-0 in first leg last week
Adrian Lopez, Diego Costa and Arda Turan on target
In Madrid, all the talk is about “La Decima”.
In London, all the talk was about the “Special One”.
Tonight, after a performance which helped to write another chapter in one of the season’s most romantic fairy tales, Atletico Madrid allowed itself to dream of its own special one – La Primera – the first.
Atletico, for so long a club living in the shadow of city rival Real, has the opportunity to make history not just at home but also on the European stage.
A convincing 3-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge secured a place in the Champions League final and allowed the dream of a league and European double to prosper.
This Atletico team has guts, resilience and an indefatigable spirit – but what it also has, in abundance, is quality.
Trailing to Fernando Torres’ strike, Atletico offered a brutal riposte with Adrian Lopez leveling before Diego Costa and Arda Turan applied the finishing touches.
Four points clear at the top of La Liga with three games remaining and a clash with Real to decide the destiny of the Champions League trophy to come in Lisbon on May 24, this is turning out to be some season for Atletico.
“It’s a dream,” Atletico midfielder Tiago told Sky Sports.
“We have a great spirit, we are a great team, we all work together, now we are in the final in Lisbon, the dreams can be true.
“It is not easy to play here, we know that. But we knew Chelsea had to play more.
“We know we are very good away from home. After our goal Chelsea went down a bit, but we were confident and now we are there.
“We know Real Madrid is a fantastic team with great players. They can win the game in any action but we are there. Last year we won the Cup in their stadium so we are confident.”
Not since 1996 has Los Rojiblancos won the domestic title but managed by Diego Simeone, who was part of that team 18 years ago, it now stands on the brink of history.
Simeone, who presides over a budget nearly five times smaller than Real, has worked wonders but perhaps even would not have expected his players to record such an impressive victory.
To score three goals away from home in European competition is a marked achievement, but to do so against Chelsea, a team whose defense has been so miserly in the competition, is staggering.
Chelsea, derided for its defensive tactics and considered an “enemy of football” by some because of its negative approach, has already answered its critics on numerous occasions this season.
A fine victory at Liverpool on Sunday proved once again that Mourinho’s tactics, however unpalatable, gain results.
But on this occasion, the solidity and cohesion which had caused such frustration in Madrid last week, was missing.
The dour goalless draw in the opening leg led to plenty of accusations that Chelsea had not attempted to win the game but simply stifle Atletico.
There is no doubt that Mourinho has been hurt by the criticism and hit back at his detractors by claiming that “at this moment, football is full of philosophers.”
While everybody appears to have an opinion on Chelsea’s defensive approach, Mourinho sticks to the belief which has made him a serial winner – winning at all costs.
The prospect of facing his former employer, Real Madrid, in the final added another subplot to an already intriguing tie.
Eden Hazard, back from injury, was restored to the side, and Chelsea, often so adroit at scraping through tight contests, appeared confident.
Yet it was the visitors who began the brighter of the two.
Atletico, on the brink of the domestic title and chasing a place in the final for the first time in 40 years, played with a sense of purpose and came within inches of taking an early lead.
Koke, influential throughout, aimed what looked like a cross towards goal only for the ball to sail over Chelsea goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer and smash against the crossbar.
Chelsea responded with David Luiz’s overhead kick sailing just wide of the far post as the home side stepped up the pressure.
And with 11 minutes of the first half remaining, the home side finally made the breakthrough.
Willian escaped his marker on the right before finding Cesar Azpilicueta, who in turn found Torres to fire home from inside the penalty area.
Torres, who began his career at Atletico and scored 84 goals in 214 games for the club before moving to Liverpool in 2007, refused to celebrate but that gesture did not detract from the significance of the strike.
Buoyed by the goal, Chelsea began to take control and with its resilient defense holding Atletico comfortably, the visitors appeared rattled.
But with just a minute of the opening period remaining, the game was turned on its head.
Tiago, once of Chelsea, picked out Juanfran at the far post and when he crossed the ball into the penalty area, Lopez was on hand to steer the ball home.
Mourinho’s defense, such an integral part of his side’s success, appeared brittle for the first time in the competition and it never really recovered.
Within minutes of the restart, Schwarzer was forced to produce a fine save to deny Turan after the Atletico midfielder had found space inside the penalty area.
While Schwarzer performed heroics at one end, Thibaut Courtois, on loan from Chelsea, did similar at the other.
John Terry’s powerful header looked certain to find the net but Courtois produced an astonishing stop to deny the Chelsea captain.
That save appeared to change the momentum of the contest and slowly but surely, Atletico began to turn the screw .
With an hour of the game gone, Atletico finally struck and grabbed the initiative.
Diego Costa, a man constantly linked with a move to Chelsea, was fouled inside the penalty area by Samuel Eto’o.
The Spain striker, who endured a nervous wait to take the spot kick after the ball failed to settle on the spot, fired home emphatically to put his side within touching distance of glory.
An eerie silence engulfed Stamford Bridge and but for a few thousand Spaniards clad in red and white, a sense of hopelessness began to emanate.
Chelsea, to its credit, refused to give up the fight and came perilously close to equalizing within five minutes.
Willian’s exquisite free kick caused panic in the Atletico defense and Luiz sent a header crashing against the post when the ball seemed destined for the net.
Chelsea, by now beginning to look ragged and forlorn, strained every sinew in an attempt to gain some sort of foothold to launch a comeback.
But as the home side pushed forward, Atletico countered and in doing so, swiftly put the tie beyond Chelsea’s reach.
Once again, a wonderful switch of play caught Chelsea sleeping and after sending a powerful header against the crossbar from Juanfran’s cross, Arda tucked away the rebound from his own effort.
That strike sent Simeone down the touchline dancing a jig of delight a la Mourinho all those years ago.
It is a jig he will hope to dance again in Lisbon with the whole world watching.