Fernando Torres calls Champions League nights like Atleti's "gifts"
Atletico Madrid penalty hero Fernando Torres called Champions League nights like this "gifts" as he scored his team's final penalty in the 3-2 shoot-out win, which took them past Bayer Leverkusen in their last-16, second leg at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.
Atletico won 1-0 on the night in a tight, physical battle against a well organised Bayer side, meaning the tie finished 1-1 on aggregate, with the 30 minutes extra time then finishing goalless.
Colchoneros fan Torres, who had spoken on the morning of the game of his dream of playing for his boyhood club in front of his fellow fans, entered as a second-half substitute and made little impression. But he kept his cool in the shoot-out to calmly finish after teammates Raul Garcia and Koke had missed.
The 30-year-old told Canal Plus after the game that ever since he was a child he wanted to experience such an unforgettable night at the Calderon.
"I am happy here, I am happy to see the stadium enjoying itself, to be with these players and at the end to be happy," Torres said. "I really wanted to experience nights like this at the Calderon. My last Champions League game with Atleti, I was only 11 or 12 years old.
"To experience it on the pitch was impressive. There are no words of appreciation for the fans. Until the end they were lifting us, that's why they are the best fans in the world. I had no doubts that I made the right choice to come back here. It is something unforgettable. To play in the Champions League, and nights like this, are gifts. That is above anything else."
Torres, who returned to Atletico on loan in January in a complex deal involving both his parent-club Chelsea and AC Milan, said he was confident he would score his kick.
"I wanted Koke to score so mine would be the final kick taken," he said. "I took it with my mind made up, the keeper could not get near it. I knew clearly that I was going to hit it just inside the post, and it went well."
El Nino shared at least some of the glory with reserve keeper Jan Oblak, who came on as a substitute in the first half when Miguel Angel Moya pulled a hamstring. The young Slovenian then made a crucial save from Bayer takers Hakan Calhanoglu and saw Omer Toprak and Stefan Kiessling blaze over the bar.
"The keeper deserves it, it is not easy when you are not playing, especially in that position," Torres said. "But he played a great game, and has been decisive. That will help him to grow with us. We have a keeper for many years."
Before the shoot-out, the 120 minutes had been high on physicality but low on free-flowing football, as the Bundesliga side held out well against Atletico's misfiring attack, even after their 1-0 first leg lead had been cancelled out by Mario Suarez's deflected strike.
"This is the Champions League, to win is difficult, and the last 16 are not as easy as some people think," Torres said. "To speak about favourites is meaningless. We controlled the game, but with the score from there it was not easy. The draw was not unfair. In penalties the team with the better luck takes it."