Atletico Madrid sealed an historic triumph over Barcelona on Wednesday as they progressed to the Champions League semifinals for the first time in 40 years with a 2-1 aggregate victory over the four-time European champions.
SuperSport.com looks at how Diego Simeone’s men overcame the Catalans.
1. Solid defence
Atletico’s organisation and defensive resolve has been the bedrock of the club’s revival since Simeone took charge two-and-a-half years ago.
They have conceded just five times in 10 Champions League games on their return to the competition for the first time in four years and, even more impressively, just twice in five encounters with Barcelona this season.
2. Missing Messi
The key to Atletico’s defensive job had been crowding out four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi.
Prior to May last year Messi had scored 20 times in 15 games against Atletico. He has been held scoreless in the six matches between the two since.
Indeed, Atletico’s marshalling of the Argentine has been so good that Barca boss Gerardo Martino moved his compatriot out of his favoured role as a false nine at the Vicente Calderon in an unsuccessful attempt to offer his star man more space out on the right.
3. Koke outshines Spanish international teammates
The only goal of the second leg came after just five minutes as midfielder Koke timed his run into the box perfectly to volley home Adrian Lopez’s knock-down.
The 22-year-old seems certain to be included in Vicente del Bosque’s World Cup squad and made his case for a starting place as he excelled against many of his more illustrious international teammates in the Barcelona midfield over both legs.
4. The roar of the Calderon
Atletico fans haven’t had it this good for years and they played their part with spectacular backing throughout the whole 90 minutes to drag their side towards the finish line.
“The atmosphere was amazing. It didn’t affect Barca because they are used to those atmospheres, but it did influence our players. It gave us great positive energy,” said Simeone.
5. Atletico’s depth of squad makes the difference
What made Atletico’s triumph even more remarkable was that it was done without their talisman Diego Costa for the vast majority of the tie.
The Spanish international, who has scored 33 goals this season, limped off after just half an hour of the first leg with a hamstring injury.
However, it was Costa’s replacement in both legs that made the difference as Diego Ribas belted home a stunning 35-yard effort to open the scoring at the Camp Nou after coming on as a substitute.
Simeone then pulled another managerial masterstroke by showing huge confidence in Adrian, despite the former Deportivo la Coruna striker scoring just two goals in 31 appearances this season, and he repaid his manager’s faith by setting up Koke for the winner.