Diego Simeone proud of his Atletico Madrid players despite Champions League exit

Real Madrid inflicted a fourth Champions League elimination on Atletico Madrid in as many years on Wednesday, losing their semi-final second leg 2-1 but progressing to the final 4-2 on aggregate.

Saul Niguez thumped in a header with 12 minutes gone before Antoine Griezmann converted a penalty to get Diego Simeone's side believing in a turnaround.

Real have also scored in each of their last 60 games in all competitions, increasing the likelihood of an away goal which would oblige Atletico to win by four goals to reach the final.

Zinedine Zidane's side can become the first team to retain the Champions League when they take on Juventus in the final in Cardiff on June 3.

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Real Madrid, through, were not fazed by the cauldron-like atmosphere that was prevalent in the stadium. The roars were even louder when veteran Torres beat Madrid captain Sergio Ramos to the first header, although the referee called play back for a foul. Madrid will be the first team to have a chance to defend its title since Manchester United made it to consecutive finals in 2008-09.

This time the French global found the net, albeit with a bit of fortune as Navas got a hand to his mishit spot-kick but couldn't keep it out.

Atletico went in hunt of the opening goal from kick-off and it took a fine low save at the near post from Keylor Navas to stop Koke's prodded effort from giving the hosts the lead after only five minutes. Slowly but surely they regained control of the match. He sped into the area and sent a backward pass to Toni Kroos, whose shot was initially saved by goalkeeper Jan Oblak, but Isco was nearby and picked up the rebound to easily score from close range.

Atletico were boosted on Sunday by the return of defender Jose Gimenez to training although they are still without right backs Juanfran and Sime Vrsaljko, who they missed badly in the first leg as they struggled to cause Real's defence any problems.

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The Rojiblanco family had been building a mood of defiance ever since last Tuesday's first leg at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, with some fans claiming offence at a pregame banner shown by Madrid fans asking "How did it feel?" to have lost the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals to their neighbours.

"We're delighted to be in the final and we have time to prepare for it, but for now we will be happy with our achievement", he concluded.

This post was syndicated from The Guardian Nigeria Newspaper.

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