Atletico Madrid gave its all, but Real Madrid has returned to the Champions League final after weathering the storm and advancing on a 4-2 aggregate.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat trick in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals all but punched Real Madrid’s ticket to the June 3 final in Cardiff, but Atletico Madrid scored two early goals to make the second leg interesting. That is, until Isco’s away goal thwarted those comeback hopes and forced Atletico to need three more to go through at the last European game ever at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.
Real Madrid fell 2-1 on the day but still eliminated Atletico for a fourth straight Champions League to return to the final stage.
Waiting there will be Juventus, after the Serie A power ousted Monaco on a 4-1 aggregate.
Atletico tried to get out to a quick start at a raucous atmosphere (its fans unfurled a tifo that read “Proud to not be like you”), with Koke testing Keylor Navas in the fifth minute with a toe-poke redirect of a cross from the right.
Navas’s counterpart turned in a spectacular save moments later on the other end, with Jan Oblak acrobatically and instinctively diving to keep out a header from Casemiro.
Atletico got the early goal it was seeking in the 12th minute through Saul Niguez. His header off a corner kick–he beat Ronaldo to the spot–sent the supporters at the Calderon into a frenzy and reduced the deficit to two goals.
The deficit became 3-2 in the 16th minute, after Raphael Varane took down Fernando Torres in the box. Antoine Griezmann converted the ensuing penalty–though it was not hit all that well and Navas got a hand to it–and the sense of belief grew even more. For Griezmann, who missed a penalty in the Champions League final vs. Real Madrid, the moment had to feel a bit extra sweet.
The aggressive play continued from Atletico Madrid, typified by Diego Godin’s hard challenge on Ronaldo.
Real Madrid carved out some much-needed breathing room with an away goal at the end of the first half. Karim Benzema did fantastic work to keep the ball in bounds on the end line, and he cut back a cross for Toni Kroos. Oblak made a strong, one-handed save, but he parried it right to Isco on the doorstep, and the Spanish midfielder scored the key away goal. The tally made it 4-2 Real on aggregate, while giving the visitor the away goal tiebreaker. Atletico Madrid’s task became all the more difficult, with the club needing three goals again to go through.
With Atletico seeking another comeback spark in the second half, Navas came up huge with a sensational double save. First he denied Yannick Carrasco from close range, then immediately bounced up to swat away a follow-up header from Kevin Gameiro in the 67th minute.
Real Madrid maintains hopes of pulling off a domestic-European double, with the club neck and neck with Barcelona in La Liga as the season winds down. They’re tied on points and Barcelona has the head-to-head tiebreaker, but Real Madrid has a game in hand.
Watch: Isco away goal kills off Atletico Madrid comeback effort in UCL semifinals – Sports Illustrated