Friday, 11 April 2014 00:00
Reuters: Atletico Madrid tamed Lionel Messi and Neymar to send La Liga rivals Barcelona crashing out of the Champions League after Koke’s early goal secured a shock 2-1 aggregate success at the Calderon on Wednesday.
After last week’s quarter-final, first leg in Barcelona ended 1-1, Atletico’s stunning 1-0 victory at an electric Calderon stadium was the latest twist in a fairytale season for Madrid’s second club and their inspirational coach and former player Diego Simeone.
Simeone’s fired-up troops blew Barca away in the opening 20 minutes and after midfielder Koke volleyed in from close range in the fifth minute former Barca forward David Villa twice rattled the crossbar.
After surviving the early barrage, Barca showed more intensity and had their chances in the second half as the home side wilted.
But with Simeone willing them on from his technical area and whipping up the delirious fans in the stands, Atletico held out to deny Barca a record-extending seventh consecutive appearance in the last four and claim a berth in the last four of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in 40 years.
Eliminating the Catalan giants, whose annual earnings of more than 500 million euros are almost five times those of their Madrid rivals, was an incredible achievement and they join neighbours Real Madrid, Chelsea and holders Bayern Munich in Friday’s draw for the last four.
They can twist the knife deeper by holding on to their narrow lead over second-placed Barca in La Liga and preventing them securing them a fifth domestic league title in six years.
They are a point clear with six games left and closing in on a first la Liga triumph since a team featuring Simeone as a combative midfielder won the title in 1996.
Barca, whose talisman Lionel Messi barely featured on a stage where he has so often excelled, were left wondering how they failed to turn their second-half dominance into at least the one goal that would have taken the game to extra time.
Barca, who had played Atletico four times this season with all four games ending in draws, began the second half strongly and immediately had Atletico on the back foot.
Bayern in semis after punishing Man U for lapses
REUTERS: A schoolboy lapse in concentration and a bad miss by Wayne Rooney wrecked Manchester United’s hopes of causing a huge Champions League upset against holders Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday.
When United went ahead in the quarter-final second leg with a spectacular Patrice Evra strike after 57 minutes it seemed an improbable victory was possible but they seemed to be still celebrating when Mario Mandzukic headed the equaliser 22 seconds after the re-start.
Even then Rooney missed a gilt-edged chance but there was no way back after that as Bayern eased away to a 3-1 win with Thomas Mueller and the influential Arjen Robben both on target for the hosts who were never totally convincing.
Bayern’s 4-2 aggregate win kept them on course for a second successive treble and all but put an end to Manchester United’s miserable first season under David Moyes.
United are extremely unlikely to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season and winning the Champions League represented their only realistic hope of qualifying for next season’s competition.