Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone admitted to having “goose bumps” after his side overturned a first-leg deficit and knocked Bayer Leverkusen out of the Champions League on penalties to claim a berth in the last eight on Tuesday.
Atletico lost 1-0 at Leverkusen in the first leg but a first-half goal from Mario Suarez left the rivals locked at 1-1 after extra time in the return match at a typically vibrant Calderon stadium.
Each side failed with two spot kicks in the shootout before Leverkusen striker Stefan Kiessling sent a wild effort over the crossbar with the Bundesliga side’s fifth penalty to send Atletico through 3-2.
The shootout success, Atletico’s first in four attempts in European competition, kept their dream alive of a second straight appearance in the
final after they were beaten 4-1 after extra time by neighbours Real Madrid in last season’s showpiece in Lisbon.
“I am among the eight best teams in Europe again with Atletico and it gives me goose bumps to say it,” Simeone told a news conference.
“The fans delight me,” added the Argentine. “The supporters don’t realise the strength they give the players.”
There was more good news for Atletico fans with Simeone’s sister and agent Natalia hinting to Spanish television broadcaster TVE that her brother had agreed to extend his contract beyond 2017 when his current deal expires.
Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt was gracious in defeat, congratulating Atletico and praising his own players for their efforts.
“We are a young team with little experience and it is not easy to hang in there at a stadium like Atletico’s,” the German told reporters.
“In the shootout we lacked concentration and calm. After fighting so hard we are very disappointed. But the players gave their all and so we leave feeling satisfied.”
The draw for the quarter-finals is on Friday, with holders Real, Bayern Munich, Paris St Germain, Porto and Monaco already through.
The remaining two last 16, second legs are on Wednesday, with Barcelona 2-1 up on Manchester City before their game at the Nou Camp and Juventus leading Borussia Dortmund by the same scoreline before they meet in Germany.