There was unconfined joy across the media in Spanish capital on Thursday morning following Atletico Madrid’s 3-1 win in their Champions League semifinal win with Chelsea, which set up a final meeting with neighbours Real Madrid in Lisbon.
Following a 0-0 draw at the Vicente Calderon, Atletico fell behind to a goal from former Rojiblancos star Fernando Torres but hit back through Adrian Lopez, a Diego Costa penalty and Arda Turan to secure a convincing win at Stamford Bridge.
“From Madrid to Heaven” was the headline on the front cover of AS, which bore a photo of the victorious players lined up saluting the 4,000 travelling fans, along with the line: “Atletico wipe out Chelsea in a second half for the ages.” The paper also published a gallery of the Atleti fans celebrating the victory at the Neptuno statue in Madrid city centre on its website.
Marca had key pair Diego Costa and Koke roaring from its cover and added: “A memorable football lesson -- Atletico delirium after rolling over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge having buried three other European champions: Porto, Milan and Barca.” Marca also pointed out that, whatever happened in the final, the trophy was headed for the Spanish capital -- “Lisbon will crown one of ours on May 24.”
AS’ match report said that total belief in coach Diego Simeone had helped Atletico’s players keep the faith when going 1-0 down in the first half, while hailing his surprise selection of the man who scored the key equaliser just before the break: “Simeone -- this man who could ask the Atleticos to jump off a bridge, and they would do while thinking him, giving him a kiss, and the keys to their houses -- looked again for his secret Champions League weapon: Adrian.”
El Pais praised Atletico’s bravery in not sitting back at 1-1.
“After the equaliser, Chelsea did not emerge more ambitious after the break; instead it was an imperial and choral Atletico,” its match report said. “Koke let loose, Filipe too. Mario began to play with authority, Arda imposed his art, and the movement of Diego Costa and Adrian ripped apart the Blues’ defence.”
El Mundo’s report praised the way Simeone’s men dominated the match's final stages: “Atletico ended the game dancing on the corpse of Chelsea, crouched over on the kerb, trampled over by an uncommon collective, mad with itself, with its football.”
Amid the celebrations, Marca found space to point out that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho had now fallen at the semifinal stage in four successive years, in a piece with an English headline: “Mourinho, ‘The Semifinal One.’”
In the British press, Atletico were widely praised as worthy winners, with former Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino, writing in The Times, full of admiration for Simeone’s approach.
“Relentless and resilient, but with more skilful players, you have to applaud Atletico,” he wrote. “Chelsea found out just how difficult their style, Mourinho’s style, is to play against. In the final analysis, they did not have the variation.”
Cascarino, who said Chelsea just need “more power and dynamism in attack” to be a major force next season, also commented on the evolution of the sport, writing: “Football is being played by incredible physical specimens at a sprinter’s pace. They are heavyweights of endurance and you can no longer afford to switch off for a second because, as Eden Hazard, the Chelsea midfielder, can testify, it results in a goal.”
Ronay wrote: “All good things -- or bad, depending on your tactical tastes -- must come to an end and at Stamford Bridge Chelsea's defensive juggernaut was duly halted by an Atletico Madrid team too well-grooved, too canny and ultimately too vibrant in attack to be smothered for a second time.”
In the Daily Telegraph, Paul Hayward said Simeone was so animated on the touchline he made Mourinho “look like the Dalai Lama in the technical area.”
He added: “Just as the world was starting to bend to Jose Mourinho’s will again, along came a pugnacious, inspired Atletico to spoil the plan ... Atletico were too good, too strong, and punished Chelsea for their timidity in the first leg with an emphatic 3-1 victory that almost certainly ended Mourinho’s hopes of winning a trophy in his first season back.”
The Sun’s back page, meanwhile, focused on John Terry, who sobbed after the defeat after again seeing his hopes of playing in a Champions League final victory ended, while the Daily Mirror -- referencing Chelsea’s reported interest in signing Diego Costa -- headlined its back page: “Jose counts the Costa.”