No team have been able to win back-to-back Champions League trophy and this year the curse continued as defending champions, Barcelona were beaten 2-0 by Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon on Wednesday, with Antoine Griezmann’s scoring both goals to secure passage to the semi-finals.
Going into tonight’s game, Barcelona led 2-1 from the first leg, and a draw would have seen them through, but ultimately failed to cope with the intensity of an Atletico side who are also just three points behind them in La Liga and will be buoyed by this scalp as they seek to heap added misery onto their Catalan counterparts domestically.
Barcelona’s willingness to sit on that slender first-leg advantage led to a cagey and tense first half-hour, but Atletico broke through with 36 minutes on the clock, as Griezmann nodded in to spark wild celebrations.
Dogged Atletico held firm for the remainder of the half and went desperately close to a second soon after the break, but Lucas Hernandez’s header was kept out by the crossbar.
Barca’s terrifying attack of Messi, Neymar and Suarez were being kept quiet, but the away side did get to grips with Atletico’s intense pressing, resulting in the two sides cancelling each other out in midfield for long periods.
Wave after wave of Barca attacks were halted by the home defence during the final 20 minutes, as the reigning champions continued to be frustrated, with Messi kept particularly quiet.
Barca threw everything at Atletico in desperate fashion for the final 10 minutes, but it was the home side who were left jubilant.
A marvellous Filipe Luis breakaway left Iniesta as the last man and the midfielder handled in the penalty area, with Griezmann squeezing the spot-kick just beyond Ter Stegen diving low to his left.
Heading into stoppage time and searching for the goal that would have forced an extra 30 minutes, Barca were incensed not to receive a penalty when Andres Iniesta’s shot struck the arm of Atletico captain Gabi just inside the box, with the referee instead awarding a free-kick which Lionel Messi hit over.
Elsewhere, Bayern Munich had Arturo Vidal and Thomas Muller to thank as they fought to a 2-2 draw with Benfica, a result which was enough to send them through to the Champions League semi-final.
Vidal had scored the winner when the sides met in Munich last week and was on hand to cancel out Raul Jimenez’s opener during the first half in Lisbon on Wednesday.
Benfica soaked up sustained Bayern pressure in the early stages at Estadio da Luz, but broke the deadlock against the run of play through a Jimenez header.
Vidal’s powerful leveller provided Pep Guardiola’s men with a healthy cushion to defend, leaving Benfica needing two goals by the end of 90 minutes to progress.
Muller put the match to bed after the break, with his goal effectively ending home hopes of a maiden last-four appearance of the Champions League era.
Talisca scored from a 76th-minute free-kick to reduce the deficit, but the damage had already been done, with Bayern now facing the possibility of a clash with Manchester City – Guardiola’s future employers – in the last four.
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