This was exactly the kind of humiliation routinely dished out to opponents in their own stadiums, in front of their own fans, that Jose Mourinho has made a speciality of serving up over his career, with one exception: this time it was he on the receiving end right down to the celebration of the opposing manager.
When Atletico Madrid’s third goal went in, Diego Simeone embarked on his own dash down the touchline at Stamford Bridge in the same manner that Mourinho did a decade earlier at Old Trafford as the puckish young coach of Porto. Now there is a new generation snapping at the heels of those who ruled the previous decade and it would be no exaggeration to say that Chelsea found themselves comprehensively schooled in the art of European football.
It turned into such a non-event for Chelsea that afterwards Mourinho could barely be bothered to construct a convincing excuse. He said that a save from Thibaut Courtois on 53 minutes, and then Atletico’s second goal six minutes later was the turning point of the match from which point it was “over”. Although given that they had 30 minutes to score two goals at home, that was hard to believe.
Unlike Sunday’s delicate unpicking of Liverpool’s title ambitions, Chelsea had the majority of the possession, but it was Atletico who had the lion’s share of the guile and, most importantly, the goals. Simeone’s team scored on the counter-attack but that did not mean that over the course of the evening they did not also commit to the attack, especially at the start of the second half when they took control of the game.
Chelsea 1 Atletico Madrid 3 player ratings
Chelsea 1 Atletico Madrid 3 player ratings
1/20 Mark Schwarzerv- 6
Veteran continued in place of Cech and watched Koke cross-shot hit bar. Solid handling and made valuable stops but let down by off-colour defence.
2/20 Branislav Ivanovic - 6
Was defensive impetus behind victory at Anfield on Sunday but troubled by pace and imagination of Atletico’s forward play all evening.
3/20 Gary Cahill - 6
Centre-back has enjoyed a stellar campaign and made an important block from Costa but culpable for Lopez goal. Booked for taking out Costa.
4/20 David Luiz - 6
Went close with extravagant overhead kick in opening half hour and headed Willian free-kick against post. Lack of composure at times.
5/20 Ramires - 7
Unable to make Courtois work with shot from outside area. Struggled to make meaningful impact on proceedings, despite tireless running.
6/20 Cesar Azpilicueta - 6
Trusted with advanced role and hosts were rewarded when he set up Torres goal. Moved back into defensive role but lost Turan for Spaniard’s third.
7/20 Willian - 7
Wasted free-kick opportunity from just outside area. Threat from set-pieces and forward thrust led to Torres’ opening goal before tiring late on.
8/20 Eden Hazard - 5
Disappointing showing in first start since Chelsea’s last European home tie. Skied one effort and out of position for Atletico’s first and third.
9/20 Fernando Torres - 6
Chosen ahead of Eto’o and scored in European semi for third year in succession but refused to celebrate - setting the tone for rest of Blues’ evening.
10/20 Thibault Courtois - 8
Finally made first appearance at Stamford Bridge three years after joining. Confident in decision making and made stops from Terry, Luiz and Hazard.
11/20 Juanfran - 7
Fine display last week and impressed again here. Header gave Lopez chance for goal and important clearance after Terry effort kept visitors in command.
12/20 Joao Miranda - 8
Went down with panache under challenge from Hazard. Fine tackle on Torres and furthered his claims for place in Brazil’s World Cup squad.
13/20 Diego Godin - 7
Wrestled with Terry at corner but enjoyed more pleasing evening than Chelsea counterpart. Masterful showing from the Uruguayan.
14/20 Filipe Luis - 8
Strong and powerful in defence and not afraid to come forward in possession and spent lot of time in Chelsea half. Provided valuable back up for Turan.
15/20 Tiago - 7
Passing posed problems for Chelsea all evening on return to Bridge. Floated ball in for equaliser and also inspired the move for Turan’s third.
16/20 Mario Suarez - 7
Unwitting deflection for Torres opener. Enjoyed physicality of midfield battle and it was his hard work that allowed teammates to prosper further forward.
17/20 Koke - 8
Hit Schwarzer’s bar with in-swinging cross and added fizz to visitors attacks. Always a threat from set-pieces and conducted play.
18/20 Arda Turan - 7
Forced Schwarzer into stop at near-post and went tumbling in box under challenge from Azpilicueta. Kept focus to score the clinching third.
19/20 Adrian Lopez - 7
Sent headed effort straight at Schwarzer. Levelled at post just before half-time to put Spaniards in boxseat. Replaced by Garcia with his work done.
20/20 Diego Costa - 8
Appeared more interested in settling score with Terry before making mark. Fouled for penalty before getting up to, eventually, score.
As for Chelsea, there was to be no perfect execution of a cunning Mourinho plan. Behind to Fernando Torres’ goal on 36 minutes, Atletico came back with three of their own and quite frankly, Stamford Bridge waited in vain for the surge from the home team that would pull the tie back in their direction.
It was Mourinho’s fourth straight semi-final defeat in this competition, and the third of his career with Chelsea. It was not made any easier to bear by the fact that the best Chelsea player on the pitch was arguably their on-loan goalkeeper Courtois who made three excellent second half saves. For their part, Chelsea conceded a penalty and gave the impression all night that their defence was vulnerable to the application of pressure.
The final on 24 May in Lisbon between Atletico and Real Madrid will be the first in the European Cup to be contested by two teams from the same city. Avoiding Real, the team that would love to eviscerate any side of Mourinho’s, might just be one small consolation for the Chelsea manager.
Chelsea controlled much more of the first half, in possession terms, than they have done in their two previous away games, and when they scored on 36 minutes it felt like reward for the pressure that had been exerted on Atletico.
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This was a careful first half performance by his team, spoiled for Mourinho by an unusual Atletico equaliser just before the break which Chelsea had chances aplenty to stop. Before then they had defended well, albeit with a booking for Gary Cahill whose tendency to rely upon his athleticism and recovery powers let him down once when he chased back after Diego Costa and clipped the shins of the striker.
Other than that, Cahill and John Terry had worked hard to keep Costa, combative and fractious, at bay. They took the lead when Willian’s mix of perseverance and skill got him out from the corner flag despite the attention of two Atletico defenders. As he forced his way through the ball was taken over by Cesar Azpilicueta, picked in a right midfield. Azpilicueta crossed and Torres swept in the goal with a sizeable deflection off Mario Suarez.
Torres duly raised his hands in the gesture universally accepted as a refusal to celebrate a goal against one’s boyhood team. But he was the only in blue who resisted the temptation as Stamford Bridge began to believe in a third successive European final. It looked like the plan, whatever it was that Mourinho had cooked up, might work.
Yet there had been flashes of defensive vulnerability even then and there was another sharp intake of breath when Cahill slipped as he stooped for a routine clearing header, later looking down accusingly at the turf. One minute before half-time, Atletico took the advantage in the tie. The former Chelsea midfielder Tiago crossed long to the back post where right-back Juanfran got a foot around the ball and redirected it into the box.
At that point, Terry, Cole and Cahill were all between the ball and Adrian Lopez, but it took a course through all of them to the midfielder who struck a volley that bounced up past Mark Schwarzer and into the Chelsea goal.
Sent in for half-time with a frown on their faces, Chelsea emerged back under the cosh. It was after half-time that Simeone’s willing soldiers went up a gear and took the game to the home side with a period of pressure that culminated in their second goal. There were more high-jinks in the Chelsea defence two minutes into the half when Terry missed a Costa cross, Ivanovic failed to clear and Schwarzer had to push Arda Turan’s shot onto the bar.
Shortly after that, Mourinho decided to switch to 4-4-2, bringing off Cole, moving Azpilicueta into the left-back position and sending on Samuel Eto’o to join Torres in attack. Within five minutes the Chelsea substitute elected to make a disastrously careless challenge on Costa just inside his own area and the penalty was not a hard decision for the Italian referee.
What followed was some extensive gardening by Costa as he tried to manipulate the turf around the spot so that the ball would sit up for him. The length of time it took made the referee Nicola Rizzoli even more anxious and he booked Costa, possibly a first for a player waiting to take a penalty. It might have affected the concentration of others but Costa beat Schwarzer easily.
Bad for Chelsea but not quite irretrievable – that was to come later. On 72 minutes, amid Chelsea’s best period of pressure, Atletico broke on them, Juanfran crossed from the right and Turan’s header was pushed against the bar by Schwarzer. The momentum of the Turkey international took him into the box and towards the rebound which he rolled into the goal.
Even more galling for Chelsea, was that before both second half goals, Courtois had made fine saves. First from Terry’s header on 53 minutes and then, when a Luiz header had hit the post, the young Belgian reacted first to swipe the loose ball over the bar.
He made another save from Eden Hazard, who had a poor game by his standards, towards the end. At the final whistle it did look like Terry was in tears although there was no great outburst of emotion from the Atletico players. They had long known that this semi-final tie was in the bag.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole (Eto'o, 53); Ramires, Luiz; Willian (Schurrle, 76), Hazard, Azpilicueta; Torres (Ba, 65).
Atletico Madrid (4-4-2): Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Felipe Luis; Koke, Tiago, Mario Suarez, Turan (Rodriguez, 82); Diego Costa (Sosa, 76), Lopez (Garcia, 66).
Chelsea - Cahill
Atletico Madrid - Costa, Lopez
Man of the match: Diego Costa
Match Rating: 7/10
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