Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was magnanimous in defeat after his side lost their Champions League semifinal following a 3-1 defeat against Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho is rarely complimentary of his opponents after a defeat of this magnitude, but the Portuguese showed real humility as he offered warm compliments to Diego Simeone and his Atletico team as they sealed a meeting with local rivals Real Madrid in next month’s Lisbon final.
“Congratulations to them,” Mourinho said in an interview with Sky Sports. “They are a very good side and what they are doing also in the Spanish league is fantastic. I hope it’s a good final.
"If both teams are there it is because they deserve to be there. Sometimes in the Champions League we see things that happen and you ask why, but it looks for me that this season it is normal. Real beat Bayern deservedly, Atletico deserve to win here too. I hope they enjoy it and I hope it’s a good game.”
Mourinho’s honest assessment of a semifinal that went away from his side following a second-half penalty from Diego Costa was equally polite, as he suggested the tide was turned after 60 minutes as Atletico's spot-kick and their keeper Thibaut Courtois -- on loan from Chelsea -- pulled off a stunning save from John Terry.
“I think the game until a certain minute was very, very, very equal. The first half was more ours than them, but finish with a 1-1 which is a completely open result,” he stated.
“Then one minute decided everything. Atletico's keeper makes an impossible save to John Terry’s header and in the same minute they have the penalty that kills the game. It was the crucial minute.
“After that 2-1 against Atletico is almost impossible. After that there was only one with morale high, knowing that with half an hour to go they had the game and the result under control.
“The last period of the game was difficult for us, but for about 60 minutes, we had the game more than them, but semifinals and big matches are decided by small details and these were very important details.
“I can’t be critical with a group of players that from day one is giving everything, is trying everything. With problems, with injuries, with suspensions, with players who cannot play in the Champions League.
“We had unhappy moments in the Premier League too, but this group of players have grown up a lot and I am proud of them. Obviously, it is disappointing to lose a second leg semifinal, especially at home, but I am proud of them.
"I can’t criticise because of a mistake for the equaliser. We did everything that was possible for us.”
Mourinho vowed to bounce back from this disappointment, as he hinted at a couple of major signings to bolster this Chelsea side that have gone close to success in both the Premier League and Champions League.
“Next season we will be better than this season, that is our objective,” he added. “We are discussing, I don’t think with any real chances [having a chance to win] the Premier League with two matches to finish, which is better than in previous seasons when Chelsea had no chance. We are in the Champions League semifinals, which is also a step up.
“Hopefully next season, the younger players are better. Hopefully we can bring a couple of good players to improve our team and hopefully we will do better next season. I am happy with the players and what they did in the Champions League. Today we didn’t have happiness on our side.”