As Jan Oblak makes one last save, the final whistle blows, and every Atletico Madrid player celebrate with fervor their entry into the UEFA Champions League final.
Their opponents Bayern Munich trailed 1-0 after their first leg, which Bayern levelled early as Xabi Alonso drove in a deflected free kick. They were able to rattle the airtight Atletico defense further after being awarded a penalty; unfortunately, Thomas Muller was unable to convert it.
But the Spanish Giants were able to settle down, withstand Bayern’s high intensity play and advance. This was thanks to the away goal that was coldly slotted in by Antoine Greizmann past Manuel Neuer in a one-on-one encounter, as the French forward was found free by Fernando Torres less than 10 minutes after the break.
It was a further sign of how clinical Atletico Madrid had been. The team did not even manage to land a single touch in the Bayern penalty area up until Griezmann scored from the edge of the box.
Robert Lewandowski made it 2-2 on aggregate with a header at 74 minutes. Still, there were no signs of letting up from Atletico, who had been awarded a penalty this time. Luckily for Bayern, Torres was unable to convert it.
Both teams than entered a scrap for the next goal, but the game ended with neither adding to their tally. And with that, Atletico advances thanks to the away-goal rule, which Griezmann provided with such perfect timing.
“The missed penalty gave us life,” said Atletico coach Simeone, who was close to tears after Griezmann’s goal. Indeed, up until then, Atletico’s unrivalled defense had begun to look rather rattled
Pep Guardiola would also rue his amply-filled trophy cabinet for missing the elusive Champions league trophy. Since leading Bayern, he had lost against Spanish clubs in the semi-finals in each of the past two seasons – to Real Madrid in 2014 and his former club Barcelona last year.
“I’ve done the best I can do,” the Catalan said post-match. “I don’t have any regrets. I’ve done my best and, I don’t know … that’s what I would like to say.”
But even with their elimination from the European top-flight tournament, Bayern can still look forward to securing a double by winning the Bundesliga and the German cup.
Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid would look forward to their third European Cup final and what could potentially be their first major European trophy, after losing to Bayern in the 1974 European Cup and against Real Madrid two years ago.
They may also get payback against their neighbours and eternal rivals Real Madrid welcome Manchester City at the Bernabeu. Of course, it would be even more sweet for Atletico if City is able to eliminate Real, as unlikely as it may be.