Photo: Atletico Madrid
An inspired Atletico Madrid advanced to the final four of the Champions League with a 1-0 home victory over FC Barcelona in Wednesday’s second leg of their quarterfinal clash.
Atleti, which tallied a 2-1 victory on aggregate, came out bursting with intensity at Vicente Calderon Stadium and was rewarded in the 6th minute when midfielder Koke booted in a perfectly placed pass off the head of Adrian Lopez, who had replaced injured striker Diego Costa in the starting lineup.
The Madrid side also wreaked havoc on its opponent’s ball-hogging, short passing game in the early going, with Barcelona’s players hounded by two or three red and white jerseys every time they touched the ball.
Yet despite completely outclassing Barcelona over the first 20 minutes, unfriendly goalposts rejected two scoring attempts by former Barça star David Villa and prevented Atleti from building on its lead.
In the second half, Barcelona had ample chances to even the score, but Neymar was unable to convert a one-on-one opportunity against Thibaut Courtois and Xavi Hernandez then missed a golden chance from short range with the opposing goalkeeper on the ground.
Xavi had another good chance later but he misconnected on a header and time starting running out quickly on Barcelona, which got little offensive contribution from four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi.
With the win, Atletico advanced to the semifinals of Europe’s premier club competition for the first time since 1974, when it was known as the European Cup.
Barcelona, meanwhile, failed to reach the Champions League final four for the first time since 2007.
Also advancing Wednesday to the Champions League semifinals was defending champion Bayern Munich, which stormed back for a 3-1 win and a 4-2 victory on aggregate over Manchester United.
United grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 58th minute on a powerful left-footed strike from Patrice Evra, but Bayern answered a minute later when Mario Mandzukic connected on a header off a cross from Franck Ribery.
Arjen Robben then played a key role in Bayern’s final two goals, setting up a strike by Thomas Müller in the 68th minute and then finding the back of the net himself eight minutes later.
The other two semifinalists of this season’s Champions League are Real Madrid and Chelsea.
The semifinals will get underway on April 22.