Atletico Madrid matchwinner Antoine Griezmann highlighted the performance of their rearguard as Diego Simeone’s dogged team held firm to beat Barcelona 2-0 on Wednesday and secure a Champions League semi-final spot.
Griezmann gave Atletico the lead towards the end of a cagey first half with a neat header and then, with Barca piling on the pressure, he added a second from the penalty spot late on.
The visitors should have been given a penalty themselves shortly after but Gabi’s handball only resulted in a free-kick and Atletico ultimately survived.
Despite getting the two goals himself, though, Griezmann acknowledged the contribution of the Atletico defence.
He told BeIn Sport: “It is normal to suffer, we were against Barcelona. We pressed well up front and after the first goal we were very strong at the back, the whole team played very well defensively and I’m very proud of this team.
“We knew it would be different here. We’ve worked really hard defensively. We deserve it.
“The win is also for the fans, they always support us in an incredible way, always push us to make matches like these.
“The team has made a great effort. We played against one of the best teams in the world, but we are among the four best in Europe.”
Atletico captain Gabi accepted that the ball did hit him on the hand late on, though he claimed to be unaware as to whether he was in the area or not, before going on to commend the character shown by his team.
“Yes, it was the hand,” he added. “I don’t know if it was in the area, but it was my hand. Sometimes they [the officials] give them and other times you get away with it.
“The team made a tremendous effort. We had possession, chances and hit the bar.
“We qualified fairly, even though in the second half Barcelona forced us back. We are in the semi-finals, but we have to keep on working with the same humility as always.”
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