Ten years ago, José Mourinho set off running on the big stage for the first time, his celebratory sprint in a designer suit and bulky overcoat serving as the indelible moment of Porto’s Champions League upset of Manchester United. It was bold. It was brash. It was perfect.
On Wednesday, however, Mourinho had nowhere to run. He could only glare, rooted like a sprinter whose relay partner had dropped the baton, as his opposing manager motored away instead. Atlético Madrid’s Diego Simeone surely did not consider the symmetry of his victory dash, but it was fitting all the same: After Arda Turan scored Atlético’s third goal of the night to seal a place in the Champions League final, Simeone scampered while Mourinho fumed.
Ultimately, even Mourinho had to admit Atlético deserved its trip to Lisbon after a commanding 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge. Atlético has long been known as the second team in Madrid — playing understudy to the juggernaut Real Madrid. But Los Rojiblancos and their red-and-white-stripe-wearing fans will have a chance to turn the Spanish capital upside down when they play Real on May 24 in Lisbon in the first intracity final in Champions League history.
It will be an apt conclusion to a remarkable run: Atlético, a club known mostly for its neighbors, its poor finances and its penchant for losing top players to bigger teams, is on the verge of a Spanish league title and has not lost in 12 Champions League games this season.
It will need an even bigger effort in the final. The game offers Atlético a chance to win its first European title in 40 years (and, simultaneously, deny Real a 10th crown).
“The dream has come true,” said Atlético midfielder Tiago, who will be one of several Portuguese players with the chance to play for the title in their home country. “We have a great spirit, we are a great team, and we all work together.”
Chelsea, which was bidding to reach its second final in three years, will now turn its attention to a dying grasp at the Premier League title while ruing a defensive breakdown against Atlético that came at the worst time.
The Blues, who forged a scoreless draw in the first leg last week and were without several starters because of injuries and suspensions, were still in position to advance after Fernando Torres scored in the 36th minute on Wednesday. Torres did not celebrate in a show of respect to Atlético, his former club, but the fans at Stamford Bridge roared all the same. With the goal, the fans knew, continued…