Chelsea crumble as Simeone steals Mourinho's crown
Atletico Madrid will play city rivals Real in Champions League final after Stamford Bridge victory
Chelsea 1 Atletico Madrid 3 [Atletico win 3-1 on aggregate]. The king is dead, long live the king! On a humiliating night for Jose Mourinho, Chelsea's dreams of Champions League glory were ruthlessly destroyed by Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid. Their stunning 3-1 win booked Atletico a place in the final later this month in Lisbon against Real Madrid, and confirmed Simeone's reputation as the brightest young talent in European football today.
That soubriquet was once applied to Mourinho, but the Chelsea manager cut a forlorn figure on the Stamford Bridge touchline last night as his side failed to cope with the pace and precision of their visitors.
It was the eighth time Mourinho has steered a club into a Champions League semi-final but for the sixth time he has failed to go any further. Those final triumphs, with Porto in 2004 and Inter six years later, seem a lifetime ago for a coach whose negative tactics have been roundly criticised this season.
Last week in Madrid, Mourinho had nullified Atletico's attacking intent and in naming a starting XI for the return leg that included six defenders it was obvious what he intended at home.
Yet despite their defensive approach, Chelsea took the lead on 36 minutes when Fernando Torres's low shot took a wicked deflection off Mario Suarez and ended up in the net. Chelsea celebrated as if they already had a foot in the final but the goal unleashed the beast in the Spanish and for the rest of the match the Blues were subjected to a series of brilliant counter-attacks.
They were helped, too, by some woeful Chelsea defending and the Spaniards' equalizer on 44 minutes was drilled home by Adrian Lopez after errors from Eden Hazard and Ashley Cole.
Athletico took the lead on the hour mark when Samuel Eto'o felled Diego Costa in the Chelsea penalty area and the Spaniard dusted himself down and blasted the ball into the roof of the net. The coup de grace was applied on 72 minutes when lazy defending by Hazard allowed Arda Turan to make it 3-1.
Mourinho later made out the result had hinged on a 60-second passage of play in the second half when Thibaut Courtois – a Chelsea player on loan at Atletico – denied John Terry with a fine save before the Spanish swept down field in a move that ended with the penalty. "The difference was one minute in the second half, where Atletico's goalkeeper makes an impossible save and instead of 2-1 to Chelsea a few seconds later a penalty," explained Mourinho. "After that, there was only one team on the pitch. My team played with pride, honour and professionalism, but after that moment the game was controlled by Atletico. Complete control."
It's been some season for Simeone – who celebrated his 44th birthday on Monday - and his Atletico team. Top of the La Liga and only two wins away from their first league title since 1995-96, Atletico now find themselves in their first Champions League final for 40 years. In 1974 they lost to Bayern Munich and they'll go to Lisbon as slight underdogs, though on the evidence of last night's clinical victory they'll provide a serious challenge for Cristiano Ronaldo and his Real Madrid teammates.
"We had to work so hard in order to find ourselves playing the type of game that suited us, which came from the second goal onwards," reflected Simeone, whose victory means for the first time a Champions League final will be contested by clubs from the same city. "Tonight was the result of a big collective effort... We did everything within our power to get through to the final and we deserve to be there, as do Real Madrid." ·