Madrid final awaits after Atletico turn over Chelsea

Spanish league leaders relentless in second half against Jose Mourinho’s men at Stamford Bridge


Chelsea 1 Atletico Madrid 3 (agg 1-3)

Once again there was the sight of a manager running along the touchline at Stamford Bridge, screaming to the skies and letting out all the euphoria. Except this time Jose Mourinho was back in the dugout, hands pushed into the pockets of his overcoat and knowing there will be no place for Chelsea in the final at Estadio da Luz on May 24th.

His team chose a bad day to lose their defensive resilience and Atletico were ruthless in the way they took advantage to recover from the opening goal being scored by Fernando Torres, their old favourite, and put in place Mourinho’s heaviest ever defeat at this ground. Adrian’s equaliser changed the entire complexion of the game just before half-time. Diego Costa’s penalty put La Liga’s champions-in-waiting in command after the substitute Samuel Eto’o had brought him down, and it was after Arda Turan followed in his own header to make it 3-1 that Diego Simeone could be seen on his victory run.

His team had shown great conviction to confirm an all-Madrid final and it leaves Mourinho staring at the strong possibility that his first season back at Chelsea will end without any silver. He did not win anything last season for Real Madrid, either, and he will be anguished about the way this semi-final veered away from him.

Torres celebrated his goal as if it were a form of apology. His hands were in the air but his palms were spread as if requesting forgiveness from his former club. Yet he took his goal with the kind of clinical finish that was a throwback to more prolific times at the Estadio Vicente Calderon. His shot took a slight deflection off Mario Suárez on the way but Torres did show his old penalty-box anticipation. Chelsea have oozed so much expertise lately when it comes to smothering football matches that it felt as if that might be the end of things. So it was a jolt when the direction of the match changed dramatically within eight minutes as Adrián scored his goal.

Ashley Cole will wince when he sees the replays because he made a terrible mistake in assuming that John Terry was going to clear Juanfran’s cutback from the byline. Terry could not adjust his feet quickly enough as the Atlético right-back turned Tiago’s cross back across the goalmouth. Cole had switched off for a split-second and Adrián’s shot was driven into the ground, bouncing off the turf to loop into the top corner.

Until that point, Chelsea had shown just the right balance between making defence their first priority and not overlooking the attacking part either. Cesar Azpilicueta’s presence on the right side of midfield, with David Luiz playing just in front of the back four, had taken the number of recognised defenders in the team up to six. Frank Lampard and Mikel John Obi were suspended and Nemanja Matic was also ineligible because he had already played in the competition for Benfica. Mourinho’s tactics will no doubt attract more allegations of deliberate dreariness, but Chelsea did not neglect the fact they needed to get behind the opposition defence.

Their goal was classy in its creation and clinical in its execution. Branislav Ivanovic started the move on the inside-right channel but it was Willian’s improvisational brilliance that really created the danger. His turn, close to the corner flag, took him away from two defenders in one elegant movement. Azpilicueta took possession and picked out Torres, who was able to put home a low right-footed shot from 12 yards.

Mourinho’s first response to the equaliser came after 53 minutes when he removed Cole to bring on Eto’o. Azpilicueta went back into defence and this was the signal that Chelsea had to start playing with greater adventure. Yet Eto’o had been on the pitch only six minutes when he committed the mistake that ultimately condemned his team.

His challenge on Costa, as Chelsea were defending a corner, was careless in the extreme, and the consequences were heavy for the home side. Costa was shown a yellow card because of the amount of time he took to take the penalty, but when he finally got round to drawing back that distinguished right foot he put the ball past Mark Schwarzer as though immune to nerves.

The most disappointing part for Mourinho was that the goals were so easily preventable and, by Chelsea’s standards, almost unorthodox in the way they were created. Eden Hazard was guilty of not tracking Juanfran for the first and, at this level, a team cannot be so obliging as Eto’o was in dangling out his leg to bring down Costa.

A few minutes before, Thibaut Courtois had kept out Terry’s header with a splendid save. Shortly after Costa’s successful penalty, Willian put the ball in again and Luiz’s header came back unfortunately off the post.

Yet Atletico could also reflect on hitting the woodwork through Koke in the opening exchanges of the match and when they did it again, after 71 minutes, Arda Turan ended any lingering arguments with Atletico’s third goal. Juanfran supplied the cross again and Turan’s header came back off the crossbar before dropping at his feet again for him to score the third Atlético goal from eight yards.

Guardian Service

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