SPAIN, April 13 – Atletico Madrid dumped holders Barcelona out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage for the second time in three seasons as Antoine Griezmann’s double sealed a 2-0 win on Wednesday to progress 3-2 on aggregate.
Griezmann put the hosts ahead on away goals with a fine first-half header before converting from the penalty spot two minutes from time after Andres Iniesta had handled inside the area.
Barca, meanwhile, were left to rue referee Nicola Rizzoli’s decision to give a free-kick on the edge of the box in injury time instead of a penalty when Gabi appeared to be inside the area as he was penalised for handball.
Defeat is Barca’s third in four games after a 39-match unbeaten run stretching back six months and sees their quest to become the first side to retain the competition in the Champions League era come to an end.
Roared on by a vociferous 55,000-strong crowd at the Vicente Calderon, Atletico were worthy winners as Barca’s star front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were limited to precious few clear-cut chances.
Atletico will be joined by local rivals Real Madrid, Manchester City and Bayern Munich in Friday’s semi-final draw.
The home side were far the better team before the break as captain Gabi fired over before Griezmann placed his first big headed chance from Filipe Luis’s cross too close to Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Messi’s most significant involvement in the first 45 minutes saw him scurrying deep into his own half to dispossess Yannick Carrasco in a sign of the five-time World Player of the Year’s desperation to get into the game.
Atletico made the all-important breakthrough nine minutes before half-time when Griezmann’s header was this time precise and powerful enough to beat Ter Stegen from Saul Niguez’s brilliant cross.
The goal awoke Barca sufficiently to force Jan Oblak into his first save of the evening from Neymar’s curling effort.
– Late controversy –
Ter Stegen ensured Barca went in at the break just one goal down as he held a Carrasco drive at the second attempt before Niguez could follow in for the rebound.
Atletico had two more chances to extend their advantage early in the second period as Koke’s cut-back was cut out by Gerard Pique with Griezmann waiting for a tap in.
And then as Barca struggled to clear a corner, Niguez’s looping header came back off the crossbar with Ter Stegen stranded.
Griezmann had another chance to give Atletico a cushion but fired straight at Ter Stegen on his weaker right foot at the end of a lightening counter-attack.
However, Barca began to impose themselves in the final half hour as Atletico tired and Suarez tested Oblak with a fierce effort from inside the area that the Slovenian handled impressively.
Suarez was lucky to escape a red card in the first leg after clashing with Juanfran and Filipe Luis and got off lightly once more when he was just shown a yellow card for elbowing Uruguayan international teammate Diego Godin.
Neymar was also booked for kicking out at Juanfran moments later as Barca began to lose their cool.
Iniesta was also lucky not to be sent-off for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity as he blocked Luis’s pass into Griezmann’s path for the penalty.
The French international kept his head to slot home the resulting spot-kick.
However, there was still time for late controversy as Rizzoli only awarded Barca a free-kick on the edge of the box as Gabi handled.
Messi’s free-kick drifted inches over and with it Barca’s chances of a second consecutive treble were gone.