Atletico strike early, send-off the Calderon with spirited UCL derby win
Atletico Madrid gave the Vicente Calderon the European send-off it deserved as they beat Real Madrid 2-1 in the second leg of their Champions League semifinal Wednesday. While being knocked out on aggregate, they left with their heads held high after what was a spirited display against their great city rivals.
A header from Saul Niguez and then an Antoine Griezmann penalty made the Calderon faithful believe, however an Isco goal on the stroke of half-time meant it was not to be.
Nevertheless, the team and fans did themselves proud as they held on to take the spoils and at least take away local pride from what was a bittersweet night.
The first quarter of an hour was incredible. Atleti's players were everywhere and they looked like they would score with every attack. Then there are the fans. What more can you say about them? Remaining behind, getting soaked, but still singing their songs and congratulating the side on another brilliant season in Europe.
The opening quarter of an hour. Where was that last week? If they had played half as good as that, they would have progressed. As it is, that is four seasons in a row Real have knocked them out of the Champions League.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Diego Simeone got almost everything right in terms of team selection and motivation. Everything last week was not.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Jan Oblak, 7 -- A wonderful save at 0-0 ensured this was not a damp squib, before producing another stunner too deny Toni Kroos before Isco followed up with the goal.
DF Jose Maria Gimenez, 7 -- Back in the side and was solid in an unfamiliar position. Looked a little rusty in possession but that is expected for someone who normally plays centre-back. Solid defensively.
DF Stefan Savic, 7 -- Looked good at the back and appeared to have Karim Benzema under control in the build-up to the goal before his partner came banding over and that appeared to throw him off as the Frenchman wriggled free. Nevertheless, a commanding display.
DF Diego Godin, 7 -- One moment of madness led to the Madrid goal. It was a big mistake from an experienced player who should know better. A shame, because aside from that he was immense. Finished the game as a centre-forward.
DF Filipe Luis, 6 -- Attacked with gusto, however was not as threatening as in recent weeks. Did what was required in a defensive sense.
MF Yannick Carrasco, 7 -- Some excellent moments but also some frustrating ones as per usual. Put in a few good crosses that should have been finished but likewise did not pass when he should have teed up Griezmann and missed a couple of chances he should have buried.
MF Koke, 7 -- Corners were much more menacing this time round and his delivery was perfect for Saul's opener.
MF Gabi, 9 -- Oh captain, my captain. He was everywhere and how he chased back in the 90th minute to stop a Madrid counter-attack summed his display up. What a leader. What a player.
MF Saul Niguez, 7 -- His brilliant header got the ball rolling. Was not as assured in possession as he has been in recent weeks but his knack for scoring important goals remains and long may it continue.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 8 -- His penalty taking ability still remains in question, but the important thing is that it went in. Defended from the front and although it was not quite his night going forwards, he was probably Atleti's most threatening player.
FW Fernando Torres, 6 -- Won the penalty but that was as good as it got for El Nino. That he will never score a Champions League goal at the Calderon is both sad and remarkable in equal measure.
FW Kevin Gameiro, 5 -- Fluffed his lines twice, particularly when he missed a gilt-edged header with 25 minutes remaining. That could have changed everything.
MF Thomas Partey, 6 -- Decent at right-back without ever excelling. Brought a more attacking threat than the man he replaced.
FW Angel Correa NR -- Looked to make things happen but his over exuberance saw him pick up a cheap booking.
Joseph Walker covers Atletico Madrid for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @Joe_in_espana.