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Atletico’s wonderful season gets better

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Reuters

Atletico Madrid enjoyed one of the most glorious nights in their 111-year history when they knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League. Photo by: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

London - Atletico Madrid enjoyed one of the most glorious nights in their 111-year history when they knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League to set up a final against mighty neighbours Real.

The Spanish sides will cross the border into Portugal for the final in Lisbon on May 24 after Atletico came from behind to beat Chelsea 3-1 with a superb display of counter-attacking football that left Jose Mourinho's side in tatters.

Former Atletico striker Fernando Torres put Chelsea ahead in the 36th minute but goals from Adrian Lopez a minute before halftime, a 60th-minute penalty from Diego Costa and a 72nd- minute goal by Arda Turan gave Atletico a 3-1 aggregate win after the first leg ended 0-0 in Madrid.

Atletico and Real, who knocked out champions Bayern Munich on Tuesday, will become the first two teams from the same city to contest any European final.

It will be the 17th final between two sides from the same country across all Uefa's various competitions, and the second all-Spanish final after Real beat Valencia in the 2000 Champions League showdown.

Atletico will be in the final for the first time since they lost to Bayern Munich in a replay in 1974 and Real's path to a 10th European crown is now blocked by their local rivals looking to become European champions for the first time.

On this showing it is no foregone conclusion that illustrious, rich and powerful Real will have things all their own way at the Stadium of Light.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who bounded down the touchline Mourinho-style to celebrate his team's decisive third goal, told reporters: “I don't see as either an advantage or a disadvantage playing against Real.

“The reality is we know each very well and we will be playing against a powerful club used to these big nights. It's a long time since we were in this position so we are very excited to be there.”

Chelsea coach Mourinho, beaten in the semi-finals for the fourth successive season, conceded that the better team had won.

“The first half was more ours than theirs, but the game turned when their goalkeeper made a very good save from John Terry and in the same minute they had a penalty and it was 2-1. After that there was only one team in it, and they had the game under control,” he said.

Both teams set up with defensive formations and stayed very deep to counter each other's attacking breaks.

Mourinho sprung a surprise by drafting Ashley Cole into his back four and playing Cesar Azpilicueta in a midfield role, and while that worked initially, Atletico, set up with two tight banks of four across the back, gradually took control of the game.

They appeared to be more inspired by the first goal than the hosts and with former Chelsea midfielder Tiago and Mario Suarez working tirelessly in midfield Atletico looked the better team.

“The truth is the team was brilliant,” Atletico forward Costa said.

“We have done everything possible to get to the final. Both Real Madrid and us are deserved finalists.”

There was nothing lucky about Atletico's win. They looked hungrier for the ball, were quicker in the tackle and sharper all over the field as Chelsea visibly wilted.

Besides the goal one of the key moments in the match came in the 60th minute when Atletico's 21-year-old keeper Thibaut Courtois, on loan in Madrid for the last three seasons from parent club Chelsea, made a brilliant save from Chelsea skipper Terry.

A minute later Chelsea conceded a penalty when Samuel Eto'o, who had only been on the field for six minutes after replacing Cole, fouled Costa in the box.

The newly-naturalised Brazilian-born Spain international, picked himself up, and after getting a yellow card for taking too long to take the penalty and making a mark in the turf, smashed the ball past Chelsea's veteran goalie Mark Schwarzer to make it 2-1.

Twelve minutes later the tie was all over as Turkish international Turan prodded home the third after his initial header was tipped on to the bar.

Atletico now have the chance to join an elite band of clubs to win all three Uefa club competitions after lifting the old European Cup Winners Cup in 1962 and the Europa League in 2010 in 2012.

All that stands in their way is the small matter of beating Real Madrid. – Reuters


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