Arda fires Atletico to Champions League final
Atletico Madrid's Turkish midfielder Arda Turan celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in London. AFP PhotoA season of the unexpected for Atletico Madrid will end with a shot at a first Champions League title against its fiercest rival.
Having disrupted the established order of power in Spanish football, the capital's second club successfully negotiated its first European Cup semifinal in 40 years on Wednesday, overwhelming Chelsea 3-1 to setup a meeting with Real Madrid.
"They're a very powerful club used to those big European nights," Atletico coach Diego Simeone was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. "It's been many years for us as a club, so it'll be a new experience. But we're keen and excited."
Turkish international Arda Turan scored the third goal that sealed the victory for Atletico. The former Galatasaray winger will become the second Turkish footballer to take part in the Champions League final, 13 years after Bayer Leverkusen’s Yıldıray Baştürk took part against Real Madrid.
“Advancing to the Champions League final is a very big deal but what matters is to win it,” he told Anadolu Agency after the game. “In life if you are the first, you are the first. If you are the second, you are nothing.”
Although post kept out Arda’s header, he moved to the center to tap the rebound into an empty net in the 72nd.
Atletico will also be undaunted by the prospect of facing the nine-time winner in the competition's first derby final. However, Simeone's side could be taking the Lisbon turf on May 24 as champions of Spain for the first time since 1996.
Just two wins are required from the final three domestic matches to break up the Barcelona-Real stranglehold on the cup.
“Playing like we play we are the strongest team in the world," Atletico’s midfielder Tiago said. "And we deserve what we have in this moment.”
Although former Atletico striker Fernando Torres put Chelsea in front at Stamford Bridge after a scoreless first leg, Adrian Lopez leveled before halftime and Diego Costa netted a penalty on the hour before Arda capped the visitors' second-half superiority with the third.
“We completely controlled the game against a great side,” Simeone said.
It was a fourth successive semifinal loss for Jose Mourinho since winning the competition in 2010 with Inter. Without Mourinho, Madrid has ended a 12-year wait to reach a Champions League final after routing Bayern Munich 5-0 on aggregate.
If Mourinho wanted to prove criticism of recent ultra-defensive tactics didn't affect him it came with the lineup, with six defenders in the starting eleven. Before taking the spotkick, Diego Costa placed and then re-placed the ball on the spot several times - earning a booking for timewasting. But he eventually dispatched the ball in the net. “The penalty killed the game,” Mourinho said. “After that moment the game was controlled by Atletico, very mature and professional.”
There was no way back now for Chelsea. And Simeone, a nervy figure all night, was finally unburdened of his anxieties, launching himself on a Mourinho-style dash down the touchline.
“He has changed our mentality,” former Chelsea player Tiago said of Simeone. “We all work together, we work as a team.”