Madrid, April 14 (IANS) Atletico Madrid are headed to the Champions League semi-finals for the second time in three years after defeating holders FC Barcelona 2-0 in the second leg match for a 3-2 aggregate win in the quarter-final tie.
French international Antoine Griezmann, Atletico’s top scorer this season, accounted for both goals here on Wednesday, reports Efe.
Leading 2-1 after last week’s first leg at Camp Nou stadium, Barcelona played their typical ball control game, but showed little appetite for risk and did not threaten the Atletico goal until the waning seconds of the first half.
The hosts, though in need of a goal, were likewise cautious, though more adventurous with the ball than their opponents, and when Barcelona showed weakness, Atletico pounced.
Jordi Alba’s poor clearance set up an exquisite cross by Saul that an unmarked Griezmann calmly headed past Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to make it 1-0 for Atletico on the night and 2-2 overall, a score that would see the Madrid squad advance on the strength of their away goal in the first leg.
More than 50,000 Atletico fans packed into Madrid’s Vicente Calderon stadium erupted and Barcelona could manage no more than a harmless shot from a distance by Neymar before the half-time break.
Barceona upped the intensity in the second half, yet struggled to get deep against the stout Atletico defence and nearly gave up another goal in the 53rd minute, as Saul’s shot bounced off the crossbar.
The visitors began to threaten and Atletico keeper Jan Oblak had to make two stops on Luis Suarez. But the hosts seized the initiative in the 87th minute with a Felipe Luis counter attack that forced Andres Iniesta into committing a cynical penalty.
Griezmann converted from the spot to seal the victory.
Atletico’s cross-town rivals, Real Madrid, qualified for the semi-finals on Tuesday, as did Manchester City, who will be making their first appearance in the Champions League final four.
Bayern Munich defeated Benfica 3-2 in Wednesday’s other match to grab the fourth semi-final berth.