Atlético Madrid have advanced to the Champions League final for the first time since 1974 after a spirited 3-1 victory over Jose Mourinho's Chelsea on Wednesday night at Stamford Bridge in London.
A late first half goal from Adrián and a second half goals from Diego Costa and Arda Turan overcame an opening strike from Fernando Torres to send Los Colchoneros to the Champions League final where they will face city rivals Real Madrid on May 24th in Lisbon.
The match-up between the two Madrid sides will mark the first all-Spanish Champions League final since 2000 when Real Madrid defeated Valencia 3-0.
Head coach Diego Simeone opted to start Adrián in place of Raúl García in the Atlético attack so it was the former Deportivo man getting the start up top with Costa. In midfield Mario Suárez and Tiago manned the center while Koke and Turan lined up out wide as wingers. In defense it was the trusted back four of Juanfran, João Miranda, Diego Godín and Filipe Luís that was tasked with shielding starting goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
After a goalless draw in the first leg in which scoring chances were few and far between, Atlético very nearly found the back of the net in just the fourth minute of action when Koke lofted a shot from the left that went over Chelsea goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer's head and struck the crossbar before being cleared away. It initially looked like a harmless cross from Koke, but the ball was on target and nearly dropped into the Blues' net.
Unlike the first leg, a goal was to happen as Chelsea grabbed the opener in the 36th minute through former Atlético striker Torres. Willian did well to split a pair of Atlético defenders deep by the right corner flag; the ball then found Spaniard Cesar Azpilicueta who cut a ball back toward the middle for Torres, and the man who made his professional debut along the banks of the Manzanares sliced in a shot that slightly deflected off Suárez and skipped past Courtois into the Atlético net. As a sign of respect, Torres elected to not celebrate the goal, raising his arms as a sign of asking forgiveness from the Atlético fans for scoring the goal against his former club.
But Simeone's decision to start Adrián would pay off handsomely as Atlético found the precious equalizer just a minute before halftime. A ball played in by Tiago was met at the far post by a streaking Juanfran whose cutback across somehow bounced through the Chelsea defense and found Adrián who hit a scuffed shot that still bounced past Schwarzer, setting off a wild celebration in the corner in front of the Atlético fans - a scene reminiscent of Andres Iniesta's celebration following his late goal at Stamford Bridge to send Barcelona to the 2009 Champions League final.
Simeone's men nearly then grabbed a goal at the start of the second stanza as the Chelsea defense were once again hesitant on a ball across the area and it fell to Turan whose shot from a close, acute angle was parried away by Schwarzer. Chelsea then almost struck for a second via a set piece but defender John Terry's thumping header was well blocked by Courtois.
Things continued in Atlético's favor in the 59th minute when Costa was brought down in the area by Chelsea substitute and former Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o. A ball that popped up in the area saw the Cameroonian crash into Costa and referee Nicola Rizzoli pointed to the spot. It was nearly a full two minutes before Costa struck his penalty due to his displeasure with the grass on the actual penalty spot, but once he did, with the Atlético fans singing the name of the late, great manager Luis Aragonés, Costa slammed his penalty into the top part of the Chelsea net to give Atlético a 2-1 advantage.
In full desperation, Chelsea pressed high up on the pitch and nearly got their second on a David Luiz header, but the ball struck the post. But Atlético were up for the fight and completed their removal of Mourinho’s defensive bus with a third goal in the 72nd minute. Much like the first goal, a ball was played to Juanfran at the far post and the cross from the Spanish international found the head of Turan whose header was tipped onto the crossbar by Schwarzer but it bounced right back to the Turkish midfielder who calmly deposited the ball into the net to increase the lead to 3-1 which silenced the Londonders in attendance.
Atlético were strong until the end and looked much likely to find a fourth than Chelsea grabbing a second as Simeone’s men controlled the final 20 minutes with aplomb and can continue to dream of an unprecedented European/La Liga double.