Atletico dream takes wings

Atletico dream takes wings
Atletico Madrid tamed Lionel Messi and Neymar to send La Liga rivals Barcelona crashing out of the Champions League after Koke’s early goal secured a shock 2-1 aggregate success at the Calderon on Wednesday.

After last week’s quarterfinal, first leg in Barcelona ended 1-1, Atletico’s stunning 1-0 victory at an electric Calderon stadium was the latest twist in a fairytale season for Madrid’s second club and their inspirational coach and former player Diego Simeone.

Holders Bayern Munich recovered from the shock of conceding a stunning Patrice Evra goal to score three times in quick succession to beat Manchester United 3-1 and reach the last four. 
 
An uninspiring quarterfinal, second leg burst into life when Evra met a bouncing ball with a rasping half-volley to put visitors United ahead in the 57th minute and 2-1 in front on aggregate.
 
Mario Mandzukic equalised also immediately for Bayern with a header and Thomas Mueller turned in an Arjen Robben cross in the 68th minute before Dutchman Robben added the third himself after a trademark weaving run to help Bayern progress 4-2 on aggregate and stay on course to emulate last year’s treble.
 
Simeone’s fired-up troops blew Barca away in the opening 20 minutes and after midfielder Koke volleyed in from close range in the fifth minute, former Barca forward David Villa twice rattled the crossbar.
 
After surviving the early barrage, Barca showed more intensity and had their chances in the second half as the home side wilted.
 
But with Simeone willing them on from his technical area and whipping up the delirious fans in the stands, Atletico held out to deny Barca a record-extending seventh consecutive appearance in the last four and claim a berth in the semifinals of Europe’s elite competition for the first time in 40 years.

Eliminating the Catalan giants, whose annual earnings of more than 500 million euros are almost five times those of their Madrid rivals, was an incredible achievement and they join neighbours Real Madrid, Chelsea and Bayern in Friday’s draw for the last four.

Barca seemed to be settling into their usual dominant rhythm in the opening minutes on a warm night in the Spanish capital but were rocked back when Adrian burst clear in the fifth minute in a typical Atletico counter-attack. 

His initial shot cannoned off the crossbar and when Villa clipped the ball back into the middle he nodded it across goal for Koke to volley in at the far post.
 
Atletico had the bit between their teeth and Barca suddenly went to pieces as Villa was twice allowed space in the area and twice saw his shots come back off the frame of the goal.
 
The game settled down after the frantic opening 20 minutes and Barca had a good chance to equalise when Messi, who had earlier headed narrowly wide, missed the target after brilliant work from Neymar on the left. 
 
Barca, who had played Atletico four times this season with all four games ending in draws, began the second half strongly and immediately had Atletico on the back foot.
 
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois saved brilliantly at Neymar’s feet in the 49th minute and Atletico somehow scrambled the ball away when it seemed easier for Xavi to score.

Neymar’s diving header drifted just wide of the post 12 minutes from time before Pinto denied substitute Cristian Rodriguez in a one-on-one at the death. 

The final whistle prompted the kind of wild celebrations rarely seen at Atletico’s stadium.

Bayern dominant

As in the first leg that ended 1-1, Bayern totally dominated possession in the first half although they lacked fluency and struggled to create any real openings against a well-drilled United side who were always in the game.

Robben was Bayern’s chief threat, getting into several promising positions after cutting inside on to his left foot in familiar fashion but his efforts were either blocked by defenders or flashed wide. 
 
United went ahead in remarkable fashion when Antonio Valencia burst down the right and, although his cross went behind United’s forwards, the lurking Evra lashed home a net-bursting effort from the edged of the area.

United’s joy was shortlived as Bayern replied immediately when Mandzukic struck. Mueller and Robben netted later as Bayern romped home.

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