Atletico Madrid are through the Champions League semifinals for the first time in club history following a 1-0 win over La Liga rivals Barcelona.
Atletico took an early lead thanks to a strike by playmaker Koke in the fifth minute as part of a breathtaking opening 20 minutes for the hosts. Barcelona were fortunate to be down only one goal, Atletico hitting the woodwork three times (including two by ex-Barcelona striker David Villa) and missing out on several other chances.
Barcelona seemed rattled by what was transpiring. Eventualy they would settle down, but other than a uncharacteristic miss by an unmarked Lionel Messi (whose header off a cross from Dani Alves was wide of the mark) were never a threat to score in the first half.
The visitors started the second half much more aggressively and were dangerously close to equalizing two minutes in. Xavi played in Neymar with a wonderful pass, but was denied by Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Xavi’s follow up would go over the bar.
Barcelona continued to apply pressure on the hosts but Atletico held firm, frustrating Messi and company – a similiar theme this season (Barcelona have scored just two goals in their five matches).
Their last chance to equalize came with twelve minutes left as Neymar’s diving header went inches wide of the target.
Atletico had a few good chances in the second half but could not find that second goal to put the match away. But in the end it meant very little once the final whistle came as the home fans celebrated their club’s first semifinal in 40 years.