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MOTD: Atletico Madrid 2-0 Barcelona (3-2 agg)
Champions League title holders Barcelona fell 2-0 to Atletico Madrid in a tight Quarterfinal tie at the Vicente Calderon. Arrigo Sachi’s famous AC Milan team of 1990 were the last team to retain European’s crowning trophy two consecutive years and no team has repeated the feat since the Champions League’s inception in 1992. For all of their firepower up front, Barca were blunted by Atletcio’s resolute defensive performance and proved just how difficult it will be to topple Milan’s record.
Antoine Greizmann bagged a brace, one goal in each half, in front of a raucous home crowd to turn the tie around and take Atletico into the semifinals. Although Barca could have flipped the tie back in their favor with a goal signle goal at any point, they were unusually flat and this was much less of a siege, like the first leg, and something closer to an ugly scrap.
They did not have a single shot on target until Neymar’s curling effort on the brink of the half and the biggest thing that separated the two teams with Atletico’s fantastic work ethic. Their rebellious performance embodied the fighting spirit of the club and Simeone waxed philosophically after the match.
“I would look beyond the fact that we have reached a semi-final to values which are ever rarer in society,” Simeone said, per the Guardian. “We can win or lose but we believe in the values life teaches you: respect, perseverance, the willingness to get up again, the ability to persist even against those more talented, to compete. I said to the players: you have great values as individuals and as a group. We never stopped believing.”
Barca have only twice missed out on the semifinals of the competition in the past eight years, both times at the hands of Atletico. They were struggling to piece together any sort of rhythm and were by far second best for a large majority of the game.
Messi curled over with a twenty-five-yard free-kick early on, before Greizmann rose up at the near post to give Atletico the lead after Gerard Pique lost track of his man. Saul hit the crossbar early in the second half and Filipe Luis won a penalty in the eighty-eighth minute from Andres Iniesta’s hand-ball. Griezmann cooly covered.
Messi never really showed up and although there was late controversy when he won a free-kick right on the edge of the area in the dying moments of the match, Barca couldn’t complain. The Argentine forward uncharacteristically sent the free-kick high and wide.