French star Antoine Griezmann struck a brace as Atletico Madrid sent Barcelona out of the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League with a 2-0 win at the proved the difference at the Estadio Vicente Calderón on Tuesday, denting the Catalans’ quest for a second successive treble.
Two goals from either halves by Griezmann meant Atletico advanced to the semi-finals of the current campaign with a 3-2 aggregate win, completing the final four which consist of Bayern Munich who edged Benfica in Portugal, Manchester City and city rivals Real Madrid. The semi-final draw takes place on Friday 15, April 2015.
Barcelona were full-strength for the trip to the Vicente Calderon as Atleti looked to offset Fernando Torres’ suspension with a switch to a 4-4-2 formation, which saw Saul Niguez come into midfield and Yannick Carrasco partner Griezmann up top.
Having lost the first leg 2-1, Atletico made their intentions known from the first kick as they pressed high up the pitch and peppered Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s goal with snapshots.
Their forward-thinking approach could’ve been considered risky before Barca’s dip in form, but the Catalans continued to toil, with their first shot on target not coming until three minutes before the break. The home side did not let up in their efforts and went ahead in both the match and the tie as Saul’s pinpoint cross was powerfully glanced home by an unmarked Griezmann.
Atlético were the stronger side at the start of the second half, and Saúl nearly doubled the lead when his header beat Ter Stegen only for it to hit the crossbar.
By the hour mark Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique made two changes, taking off Dani Alves and Ivan Rakitic and replacing them with Sergi Roberto and Arda Turan, the latter receiving a hostile reception from the fans of his previous club.
As the match approached the final 15 minutes, Barcelona’s desperation grew as they crashed the Atlético box, but the hosts stood firm. With their defence completely exposed and their attack flailing, Barcelona succumbed to a late Atlético counter, with Filipe Luis charging past the Barcelona defense before crossing for Griezmann, only to see Andres Iniesta use his arm to block the pass in the area. The Frenchman stepped up and managed to sneak the spot kick under Ter Stegen to make it 2-0 in the match and 3-2 on aggregate.
The champions had a late shout for a penalty in the final minutes when a ball looked to have struck Gabi on the arm right inside the area but the referee called for a free kick outside the box, which Messi sent over the crossbar to kill off Barcelona’s hopes of a sixth European crown.