Atletico Madrid captain Gabi said his team were the only ones trying to win the game during their Champions League semifinal first-leg draw with Chelsea.
Blues manager Jose Mourinho sent out a defensive line-up for the match, which finished 0-0 at the Vicente Calderon. The visitors sat very deep throughout to ensure they could not get caught on the break, rarely even venturing into Atletico’s half when in possession.
The approach -- previously dubbed “parking the bus” -- surprised some observers considering Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has spent hundreds of millions of pounds on attacking talent in recent years, as well as Mourinho’s own labelling of a similar set-up by West Ham against his side this season as “19th century football.”
Gabi told TVE that Atletico were disappointed not to have won the game, although he admitted Chelsea had defended well.
“We are not happy with result,” Gabi said. “Atletico Madrid wanted to win the game at all costs. They [Chelsea] defended very well. We are leaving with a bitter taste in the mouth but the tie is still very open and we are going to play to win in Chelsea’s ground.”
Asked about Chelsea’s defensive approach, Gabi said he was happy his side had tried to attack and create something, while accepting that Mourinho had the right to set up his team however he wanted.
“We knew they did not want to concede any goals,” he said. “We played much more attacking football. But anyone can set up for games as they want.”
Atletico left-back Filipe Luis told Canal Plus he was not surprised by the cautious approach given Mourinho’s experience of Champions League semifinals [the Portuguese coach has won two from seven previous last-four ties].
“It was more or less what we expected,” Filipe said. “Mourinho is a great coach and he sets up for games very well. He has a lot of experience of semifinals. He played many tall players to counter our potential in the air -- [Gary] Cahill, [John] Terry, [John] Obi Mikel, David Luiz. But the 0-0 leaves the tie open.”
The Brazil international said Atletico had been keener to push forward to score, but had also been careful not to get caught on the break themselves.
“We have gone for the game as we always do and taken risks, we pushed both full-backs forward and had midfielders coming forward onto the second ball,” Filipe said. “But we were also careful about their breaks, they had [Fernando] Torres, Willian and Ramires. We had to stop that. We played well. We did not want to concede but we tried to win. Now we will go for the game there, or to look for a score draw.”
Atletico right-back Juanfran told Spain’s national broadcaster that Chelsea might think they have the better chance in next Wednesday’s second leg at Stamford Bridge, but his side felt exactly the same.
“We are not happy, we wanted to win,” Juanfran said. “They played a very defensive game, what they wanted. They think the important game, that they can win, is at Stamford Bridge. We think the same -- we will win there.
“We must be relaxed, and go there to do that. We knew we were not going to win easily today, it was never going to be a 3-0. It was going to take a lot, because they would have their plan for the game. The tie is still there, we will play a great game and we will win.”