Goals from Adrian Lopez, a penalty from Diego Costa and the killer third from Arda Turan 18 minutes from time gave Atletico a 3-1 aggregate victory after last week’s goalless draw in Madrid to send them into the final of Europe’s elite competition for the first time since 1974.
Chelsea took the lead after 36 minutes when former Atletico favourite Fernando Torres scored with a deflected shot, but the goal inspired the La Liga leaders who will now meet their neighbours in the first European final in any UEFA competition to feature two clubs from the same city in Lisbon on May 24.
“The truth is the team was brilliant,” Atletico forward Costa said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Canal Plus. “We have done everything possible to get to the final. Both Real Madrid and us are deserved finalists.”
Atletico knew that if they scored one goal Chelsea needed at least two to win the match in 90 minutes and they did not panic even when they went behind to Torres’s opening strike.
Torres, linked with a move back to his boyhood club after three disappointing seasons at Chelsea, did not celebrate the goal against his former club, but the hosts did not have the chance to celebrate for too long either.
Atletico, set up in a cautious defensive 4-4-2 formation by coach Diego Simeone, counter-attacked with great pace and that adventure paid off when they equalised a minute before halftime.
Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho, who also set up his team to defend deeply to cope with Atletico’s swift breaks, watched in amazement as poor defending allowed Atletico to draw level in the 44th minute.
He was even more astonished in the second half as Atletico totally dominated his flat-looking side, taking control of the midfield where Koke, Turan and the tireless Costa over-ran Eden Hazard and Cesar Azpilicueta who faded on the right as the game wore on.
Mourinho has now lost his last four Champions League semi-finals after three defeats with Real Madrid and his dream of becoming the first man to win the trophy with three different clubs in his home capital of Lisbon faded as the evening got worse.
There was nothing lucky about Atletico’s win. They looked hungrier for the ball, were quicker in the tackle and sharper all over the field as Chelsea visibly wilted.
Chelsea’s opening goal seemed to inspire the visitors more than it did the home side whose supporters were left in stunned silence as their team capitulated.
It came after Willian turned his marker wide on the right before Azpilicueta, playing in an unfamiliar midfield role, set up the chance for Torres who clipped the ball home via a deflection off Mario Suarez.
Torres started as Chelsea’s lone striker but although they finished with three strikers on the field after Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba were brought on, they looked impotent in front of goal.
Atletico took advantage of poor Chelsea defending for the equaliser a minute before halftime when the home team failed to clear a floated cross from former Chelsea midfielder Tiago to the unmarked Juanfran who stole in at the far post.
He crossed for Adrian Lopez whose shot bounced down on its way into the net.
Atletico, who held the away goal advantage with the score at 1-1, refused to sit back and were rewarded after an hour when Eto’o, who had replaced Ashley Cole only six minutes earlier, fouled Diego Costa to concede a penalty after an hour.
The Brazilian-born newly-capped Spain international was shown a yellow card by referee Nicola Rizzoli for taking too long to settle the ball then making a mark on the turf with his boot before taking the kick.
But despite that delay, he showed nerves of steel and blasted the ball past Schwarzer to make it 2-1 before Turan sealed a glorious victory as Chelsea’s dream of a third appearance in the Champions League final in seven years were left in tatters.
“The game until a certain minute was very equal,” Mourinho told Sky Sports.
“The first half was more ours than them, but the second half one minute changes everything. One minute the Atletico keeper makes a very good save, the same minute it was a penalty, after that, 2-1 against Atletico is almost impossible. “After that there was only one team. One team with morale high, knowing they had the result under control.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)