Atletico Madrid put on another vintage European display to down Bayern Munich 1-0 at the Vicente Calderon on Wednesday night and have one foot in the Champions League final.
With Bayern boss Pep Guardiola and his players talking up the fact that they would go for an away goal, Diego Simeone sprung a surprise by sending his side -- renowned for their defensive capabilities -- out with the idea of attacking early on.
Atleti dominated the early stages and their adventure was rewarded after 11 minutes when Saul Niguez scored a goal worthy of winning any semi-final by dancing through the heart of the Bayern side before firing in an unstoppable opener to blow the proverbial roof off the Calderon.
The onus was then on Bayern to break Los Colchoneros down and try as they might they just could not do it. Bayern went close, forcing Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak into action, but Atletico came even closer to a second when Fernando Torres hit the inside of the post on a counter. In the end, Atletico held strong to record a famous victory and condemn Guardiola's men to a third semi-final defeat in Spain in three years.
Simeone's men will now go to Munich with the advantage and Bayern will need to breach Europe's meanest defence if they want to get to Milan. The way it is set up, Simeone is on the verge of taking his charges to a second Champions League final in three years. A remarkable achievement.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Jan Oblak, 8 -- The big Slovenian kept his fifth clean sheet in a row, thwarting almost all that Bayern could throw at him. Produced a smart stop from a Javi Martinez header, while showed his athleticism to keep out an Arturo Vidal special. The only time he was beaten, the crossbar was there to save him, but he deserved that bit of luck.
DF Juanfran, 7 -- Mr. Consistency was at his reliable best, nullifying Douglas Costa and then later Franck Ribery. Attacked when he could, but his main job was to be solid at the back and that he was.
DF Jose Maria Gimenez, 8 -- Stepped up in the absence of Diego Godin. Looked to have made a blooper seconds after Atleti took the lead when he spooned a clearance up in the air, however he was able to get back and clear the subsequent effort off the line. Made a brilliant block from a Kingsley Coman effort and contained Robert Lewandowski, which very few defenders can say they have done successfully this season.
DF Stefan Savic, 7 -- Made one brilliant challenge on Thomas Muller late on and looked assured. Often found himself in the right place at the right time to hoof the ball away in the second period when his side needed someone to give it an almighty thwack. His height helped when Bayern bombarded Atletico with crosses and long balls in the last quarter of an hour.
DF Filipe Luis, 7 -- Improved as the game went on. Was caught out early on by Vidal, however that seemed to settle his nerves. Was always willing to put in a tackle and help his side out. Attacked well, considering he was up against Philipp Lahm.
MF Koke, 6 -- A hot and cold display. Excited when he has the ball and is capable of beating a man, but his final ball was too often lacking and his set pieces were not at their usual high standards. Selflessly worked back and helped his teammates out in defence, especially in the second half.
MF Gabi, 8 -- A fantastic captain's performance. Seemingly indefatigable, he never stopped harrying Bayern's central midfielders and was always on hand to help when the Bavarians were overloading. A great foil for his midfield partner and is in great form at the business end of the season.
MF Augusto Fernandez, 9 -- His best game in a Rojiblanco shirt by a mile and quite possibly of his career. Was absolutely everywhere, charging down shots, cutting out passes and putting his body on the line. Never more was his commitment highlighted than when he took one in the midriff late on, chased the ball down, won the tackle and put it out of play before collapsing in agony. A fantastic display.
MF Saul Niguez, 9 -- The matchwinner and man of the match. Made a fool of four senior internationals as he skipped by them as if they were not there before curling an unstoppable effort past Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Was everywhere in the first half and was the best player on the park on the night. He must surely now be on the verge of a call-up to Spain's squad for the Euros this summer?
FW Antoine Griezmann, 7 -- His pace was always a danger, especially against the sluggish Martinez at the back, however he never really had the space to create much. His one outstanding moment came when he broke forwards in the second period before releasing Torres, who hit the post.
FW Fernando Torres, 6 -- Again, not quite his day. El Nino was full of running but too often he left the ball behind or his touch was too heavy. The one time he did show his class and composure, his shot came crashing back off the inside of the post. If you are going to be pedantic, you might say that having got into the position he should have scored.
MF Thomas, NR -- Came on for Saul in the final 10 minutes to provide more running and help shore up the middle of the park.