UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMIFINALS
There is a great history between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. The two capital city clubs have long been fighting tooth and nail to get the upper hand in Madrid. For generations, Los Galacticos have been superior to their noisy neighbors, but of late, Los Colchoneros are on the rise. Having won La Liga last season, Atletico are really surging up, but suffered a kick to the teeth in the form a 4-1 Champions League final loss to Real. Can they get their vengeance in this semifinal?
FIRST LEG: THE SANTIAGO BERNABEU
The Real Madrid fans packed into the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, filling over 80,000 seats in anticipation of the arrival of their hated city rivals. They were in the mood to watch their new Galacticos take down Atletico; James Rodriguez, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Gareth Bale all were in the starting lineup. Surprisingly, at the other end, Jan Oblak was given the nod in goal. The full starting lineups were as follows:
Real Madrid XI
: Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Musacchio, Marcelo; Illaramendi, Modric, James; Bale, Hernandez, Ronaldo
Atletico Madrid XI
: Oblak; Gamez, Miranda, Godin, Siqueira; Koke, Gabi; Cerci, Turan, Griezmann, Mandzukic
Atletico got off to a shockingly good start just seven minutes into the match. Marcelo hit his pass back to Casillas embarrassingly short, letting Arda Turan
easily intercept the pass and go clean through on goal. The Turkish midfielder feinted one way before slotting home, leaving Casillas no chance and silencing the raucous crowd. 1-0 to Atletico.
Los Merengues did not stay silent for long, however. On eighteen minutes, they finally struck back in the form of Pepe
. The Portuguese defender towered above his markers on a James Rodriguez corner kick, thundering the ball home. Gareth Bale
then took the game on his own shoulders, scoring two incredible strikes from outside the area to put Atletico in their place. 3-1 to Real.
Gareth Bale scored two absolute screamers in the first leg, giving his side an important two-goal lead and proving worth his humongous price tag from Tottenham.
The second half, yet again, started brightly for Michael Laudrup's men. Antoine Griezmann pulled off a streaky run down the left flank, and his impeccably accurate cross perfectly found the head of Mario Mandzukic to slam into the top corner. The second away goal was undoubtedly invaluable, especially knowing Atletico's dominance back at their stadium. 3-2 to Real.
Then, disaster struck. Brazilian defender Miranda barged into the back of Javier Hernandez
, drawing his second yellow card and sending him off. Not only would Miranda miss the next game, his absence was clearly felt when the Mexican striker doled out further punishment in the form of a final late goal. The match finished 4-2 to Real Madrid.
SECOND LEG: THE VICENTE CALDERON
The Atletico Madrid fans, not to be outdone when it was their chance to play hose, did not disappoint. They sold out the stadium, filling all 54,000 seats and creating a roar just as loud as the crowd five miles north the week before. Surprisingly, 16 year old right winger Mink Peeters was given a start for Real Madrid, as Gareth Bale was injured. Full starting lineups were as follows:
Atletico Madrid XI
: Moya; Gamez, Gimenez, Godin, Siqueira; Koke, Gabi; Cerci, Turan, Griezmann; Mandzukic
Real Madrid XI
: Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Arbeloa; Modric; Peeters, Khedira, Kroos, Isco; Ronaldo
Los Colchoneros opened with some attacking swagger, knowing they'd have to score quite a few goals if they wanted to get back into this tie after a very difficult first leg. Things did not go quite according to plan, however, when superstar Cristiano Ronaldo
hit a smart finish past Miguel Angel Moya to give Real a 1-0 lead. 5-2 to Real Madrid on aggregate.
In the second half, everything changed.
was the instigator, making a forty yard dribble past four defenders and hitting an incredible top corner finish from the kick-off to put Atletico back in with a shout. On the hour mark, the Frenchman was at it again, crossing to Mario Mandzukic
to volley home in spectacular fashion. Victory was within reach; 5-4 to Real on aggregate
Antoine Griezmann was Atletico's driving force in this second leg, scoring two wonder goals and picking up an assist to lead them to an incredible comeback victory.
On the seventy minute mark, Atletico finally retook the aggregate lead. Antoine Giezmann
received the ball thirty yards from goal, and, seeing Casillas off his line, hit a gorgeous lobbed chip into the top corner. Substitute Angel Correa
, who had assisted the previous goal, added an injury-time insurance to goal end the match 4-1. Against all the odds, Atletico completed their ingenious counterstroke at the Vicente Calderon, triumphing 6-5 on aggregate
despite a 4-2 loss in the first leg.
"This is an absolutely amazing moment," a dazed Michael Laudrup told reporters after the match. "I knew it was going to be immensely difficult to do this, but I knew we could, and my boys proved me right. Watching them dismantle Real Madrid out there is one of the proudest moments of my coaching career. I can't wait for the final now. This time, we are going to win it."
Atletico will face five-time Champions League victors Liverpool in the Champions League final, who defeated fellow English side Chelsea in the semifinal over two legs.
ATLETICO MADRID 6-5 REAL MADRID