A late goal by Javier ”Chicharito” Hernandez gave Real Madrid a tense 1-0 win over 10-man Atletico Madrid and a place in the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday.
After the first leg of their quarterfinal had finished 0-0 last week, Hernandez missed three good chances to break the deadlock for the cup holders before finding the net in the 88th minute from close range following a pass by Cristiano Ronaldo.
By then, Atletico was down to 10 men after midfielder Arda Turan was sent off for a second yellow card following a rash challenge on Madrid’s Sergio Ramos in the 76th minute.
As in the first leg of the derby between last season’s finalists, Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak kept his team in the tie by saving a series of shots on goal by Madrid’s forwards.
In the night’s other match, Juventus drew 0-0 at Monaco to reach the semifinals with a 1-0 victory on aggregate.
The win took pressure off Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, who had been criticized for his side’s failure to beat Atletico in all seven of their previous meetings since last season’s Champions League final in Portugal.
”I had wanted a match like this, searching out for offensive solutions without the need for haste, avoiding problems on the counterattack or from set pieces,” Ancelotti said. ”In this sense, the team worked well, it controlled the match.”
The coach praised Hernandez’s performances, saying the Mexico forward had played with great commitment.
”He was up for it because I think he’s suffered a lot this season as he’s played very little, and in the end his goal has been very important for us. He never gave up.”
It was a particularly welcome strike for Hernandez, who highlighted the work done by Ronaldo.
”Every goal I score is huge for me. It was a great pass from Cristiano,” said the striker, who dedicated the goal to his teammates ”and all those who believed in me.”
Madrid began at the Santiago Bernabeu with four changes to its side from last week’s first leg.
Ancelotti was missing suspended Marcelo in defense, while midfielder Luka Modric and forwards Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema were injured.
Atletico was without the suspended Mario Suarez in midfield as the teams met for the eighth time this season.
In a rarely-seen tactical strategy, Ancelotti moved Ramos up to midfield, with Pepe behind in central defense. Hernandez was given Benzema’s role as sole striker.
Madrid made a bright start and Ronaldo missed a good chance in the 13th minute when he shot just wide of the near post.
Atletico’s Jesus Gamez conceded a free kick in the 27th after a clumsy foul on Ronaldo but James Rodriguez could only send his shot over the crossbar.
Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas made a good save from Gamez in the 29th in Atletico’s first effort on goal, while Hernandez headed over the bar at the other end two minute later from a precise cross by Rodriguez.
Oblak made yet another excellent save to deny Ronaldo just before the break.
Madrid kept up the pressure after the restart and Hernandez missed a chance when, having controlled the ball with his back to goal, he spun around and unleashed a shot that flew just wide of the far post.
Raphael Varane cleared what could have been a good chance for Atletico in the 59th and Madrid quickly responded with a header by Ramos which Oblak was able to smother.
Casillas was forced to make a save in the 69th from midfielder Jorge ”Koke” Resurreccion’s header, while Hernandez missed his third chance on goal four minutes later as he shot across the goalmouth.
However, the Mexican made no mistake in the 88th when he steered home Ronaldo’s pass after a run by the Portugal forward from the right side of the area.
It was a disappointing end, though, for Atletico coach Diego Simeone – who pointed to the red card as the turning point.
”All I can say is that until that moment (Turan’s sending-off) we had conducted the game very well,” said Simeone, who added that Atletico fans could be proud of the team.
”Our club comes out of this strengthened, it is once again among Europe’s eight best.”