LISBON: Atletico Madrid overcame a scare to see off the challenge of a fired-up Sporting Lisbon and book their place in the semifinals of the Europa League.
Fredy Montero’s first-half header gave Sporting hope of overturning their 2-0 first-leg deficit but Atletico comfortably protected their narrow lead after the break to advance to Friday’s draw despite losing 1-0 in the Portuguese capital.
Sporting went into the game at Estadio Jose Alvalade at loggerheads with club president Bruno de Carvalho after he heavily criticised the players for their performance in last week’s fixture.
The disgruntled players were unhappy and put out a joint statement on their Twitter feeds, which saw Carvalho retaliate by threatening to suspend 19 of them.
Carvalho lashed out again on the eve of the return leg and Sporting began the contest like a side with a point to prove. Koke put Atletico in front after only 23 seconds of the first leg but they were on the back foot in the early stages in Lisbon.
[MUST WATCH]: Gainluigi Buffon Goes Nuts at Match Official Michael As Ronaldo Sends Madrid To UCL Semis
Marcos Acuna nodded just over for Sporting before Sebastian Coates’ powerful header was clawed out by scrambling Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak. The hosts got the goal their start deserved on 28 minutes when Oblak flapped at Bruno Fernandes’ right-wing cross and Montero, who missed a golden chance in stoppage time last week, stooped to head home from a tight angle at the back post.
Sporting continued to dominate and went close to levelling the tie on the stroke of half-time as Bryan Ruiz’s long-range strike forced Oblak into a fingertip save. Diego Costa‘s frustrating evening ended when he hobbled off shortly after the break and was replaced by Fernando Torres, featuring for the first time since announcing he had decided to leave Atletico in the summer.
Torres flashed a header over after Antoine Griezmann had sparked Atletico into life with a left-footed shot which was saved low down by Rui Patricio. The Spanish side continued in search of a crucial away goal, with Griezmann bending a free kick just wide before fluffing two one-on-ones.