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Sports

Atletico join Real Madrid in Champions League final

Atletico Madrid came from behind to beat Chelsea 3-1, booking a place in the Champions League final against their city rivals Real Madrid. The Londoners' defensive discipline let them down in decisive moments.

It was the night that Chelsea's defense finally crumbled. The faux controversy shaking ahead of the game was about Jose Mourinho's tactics. Chelsea's coach duly picked a starting line-up that seemed to confirm the fears of football "philosophers" - the term the Portuguese coined for all those who disapproved of his brand of the game.

There were six defenders in blue shirts when the game kicked off in London, and it looked as though Chelsea were setting out to block and nurdle their way to next month's final in Lisbon. The opening exchanges were cagey enough, as both sides - Atletico Madrid's own success this season has been built a strong defense and lightning counters - contented themselves to sending long experimental balls to isolated strikers.

The only dangers came from set pieces, when Chelsea would send their intimidating defenders forward, or else Atletico Madrid's Koke would fizz testing free-kicks venomously towards Mark Schwarzer's goal. Yet until late in the first half, neither goalkeeper had been seriously tested - even David Luiz's spectacular overhead kick bounced harmlessly wide.

Champions League Chelsea FC - Atletico Madrid

Atletico fans will be facing a familiar foe in the final

In the 36th minute, the opening goal was created from a brilliant piece of incisive running from Chelsea's Willian, who picked up the ball on the right of penalty area by careering diagonally across the pitch. It took two Atletico defenders to muscle him off the ball, but it was picked by Cesar Azpilicueta, who found Fernando Torres loitering in space at the edge of the area.

The misfiring Spaniard duly slammed in his fourth Champions League goal of the season - though the former Atletico legend knew he was stabbing the fans of his boyhood team in the heart as he did so, and declined to celebrate.

Chelsea break down

Torres' modesty could not have been in starker contrast to the eruption that welcomed Madrid's equalizer in the 44th minute. Eden Hazard's concentration slipped as he watched a long ball heading wide of the goal be kept in play by Juanfran. His smart cross was scuffed in by Adrian Lopez at the far-post.

With penalties ruled out, the Londoners now needed to abandon their defensive tactics in the second half, in which Mourinho brought on Samuel Eto'o to partner Torres. But the Cameroonian's intervention was to be decisive at the wrong end - after Chelsea failed to clear a corner, he brought down Diego Costa to concede an ugly penalty on the hour mark. Costa converted the spot-kick with aplomb (not before bizarrely receiving a caution for picking at the penalty spot) and Chelsea suddenly needed two more goals in the last half hour.

They duly pressed forward, and two brilliant saves from Thibaut Courtois (on loan from Chelsea to Atletico), kept the home side at bay, before Arda Turan sealed the result in the 72nd minute. Once again, Hazard's defensive indiscipline let Chelsea down - the Belgian failed to pick up Juanfran at the far-post, and his cross fell to the Turk. His first effort pinged against the bar, but it fell at his feet and he had no trouble following in to put Atletico 3-1 ahead.

The result means that the Champions League final will also be a city derby for the first time ever. Real Madrid, who trounced Bayern Munich on Tuesday, await Atletico in Lisbon on May 24.

Can Diego Simeone's managerial magic carry Atletico to the title? Happy to see attacking football prevail over Jose Mourinho's defensive tactics? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below...

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