Champions League: Seven mad minutes end Blues’ dream

Frank Dalleres
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(Atletico Madrid win 3-1 on aggregate)

CHELSEA manager Jose Mourinho was left to curse a pivotal seven-minute spell after his “dream” of leading the club to the Champions League final for the first time was steamrolled by Atletico Madrid last night.

Fernando Torres fired the Blues ahead against his boyhood team but Adrian Lopez quickly equalised, and the semi-final second leg turned on a frantic period just after the break when Chelsea-owned Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois saved from John Terry before Diego Costa won then scored a penalty for the visitors, sending them into a final on 24 May against neighbours Real Madrid.

Mourinho, whose quest to become the first manager to lift the trophy with three different clubs goes on, pinpointed that second-half spell as the turning point, though he incorrectly characterised it as just one minute long rather than seven.

“The difference was one minute in the second half, when the Atletico goalkeeper makes a save from Terry’s header and instead of 2-1 for Chelsea a few seconds later [sic] a penalty, they scored the 2-1,” he said. “After that there was only one team on the pitch.”

Mourinho, who has now lost all three of his Champions League semi-finals in two spells with Chelsea, depicted the season as one of expectations exceeded.

“We’re realistic but at the same time optimists, and when things go in a certain direction there is a moment when you dream and think that things are possible even if they aren’t so realistic,” he added.

Sunday’s win at Premier League title-chasers Liverpool ensured it was a buoyant and resolute Chelsea side, reinforced by the returning Terry and Eden Hazard, who confronted the task of eliminating the only unbeaten team left in the competition.

But a collision between the meanest defences in England and Spain proved a recipe for a cagey opening half hour, in which Atletico hit the bar through Koke’s lobbed cross.

Chelsea glimpsed a place in the Lisbon final on 36 minutes, however, when Willian outfoxed two defenders, Cesar Azpilicueta cut back towards the penalty spot, and Torres fired low, via Mario Suarez’s leg, past Courtois.

It was the first goal the Spanish league leaders had conceded in 594 minutes and, following Barcelona two years ago, another vital semi-final goal for Torres, yet the former Atletico darling declined to celebrate.

Perhaps he sensed it would have been premature, as Diego Simeone’s men dominated from that point on, equalising seconds before the interval when marauding right-back Juanfran ran onto a diagonal ball and returned it to the danger zone, where Ashley Cole and Terry failed to prevent it falling to Adrian to drive into the turf and past Schwarzer.

Courtois, the goalkeeper owned by Chelsea and only permitted to play for his loan club after European chiefs intervened in wrangling over a £5m fee, denied his parent club’s captain Terry with a brilliant reflex save early in the second half.

Seeking to regain the initiative, Mourinho sent on striker Samuel Eto’o for defender Cole, yet the move backfired spectacularly when the two-time Champions League winner clumsily tripped Diego Costa and the latter nervelessly despatched his 35th goal of the season high to Schwarzer’s left.

Chelsea almost mustered an immediate reply, but David Luiz’s near-post header thwacked the upright and Courtois palmed the live ball over.

Moments later Juanfran kept a diagonal ball in play and again the Blues defence was too sluggish to prevent Arda Turan heading against the bar before rifling in the rebound to leave the Blues facing the likelihood of a trophyless season.


2009: Iniesta leaves it late
■ After holding Barcelona to a 0-0 draw, Michael Essien gave Chelsea a second-leg lead before a series of rejected penalty appeals and Andres Iniesta’s last-minute goal broke Blues’ hearts

­2007: Blues beaten on penalties
■ Old adversaries Liverpool got the better of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, as they had done two seasons earlier. Joe Cole gave Chelsea a narrow first leg advantage, but that was wiped out by Daniel Agger at Anfield. A penalty shoot-out was required to decide the semi-final, but misses from 12 yards by midfielders Arjen Robben and Geremi sent Liverpool through to the Champions League final

2005: Ghost goal angers Mourinho
■ Following a goalless draw in the first leg at Stamford Bridge, A third minute strike from Luis Garcia at Anfield, described by Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho as a “ghost goal” with debate as to whether the shot had crossed the line, earned Liverpool a 1-0 aggregate victory

­2004: Wasteful Chelsea punished
■ Chelsea reached the last-four in billionaire Roman Abramovich’s first season as owner, but conceded two late goals in the first leg against 10-man Monaco to lose 3-1. First-half strikes from Jesper Gronkjaer and Frank Lampard put Chelsea ahead on away goals in the second leg, but after missing a host of chances, conceded twice and bowed out