Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone insisted his team never stopped believing after they stunned title holders Barcelona to reach the Champions League semi-finals.
An Antoine Griezmann brace lifted Atletico to a 2-0 second-leg win and 3-2 aggregate victory at the expense of Barca in Madrid on Wednesday.
Simeone and Co. trailed 2-1 after last week’s first leg and were in the midst of seven consecutive defeats to the European champions until Griezmann gave Atletico hope in the 36th minute and completed the comeback from the penalty spot with two minutes remaining at the Vicente Calderon.
Afterwards, Simeone showered his players in praise after they defied the odds against their star-studded opponents.
“There is a virtue in this team, with the great work of the four and a bit years we have been together,” Simeone said.
“I’m happy for these players who have come together in this team; I’m not just thinking about reaching the semi-finals, it’s more important than that. There are fewer values in society all the time, but we are a group of honest workers who can win or lose. We make ourselves strong with the tools we have.
“Today, once again, we have won a tremendously difficult game – but a very nice one. We never stopped believing; we worked knowing the situation, knowing what we can do. In the first half the game was more like what we wanted; in the second it was closer to what they wanted. They had individuals who could break the game open, but we stayed together and stayed strong.
“We were up against very good opponents, with great history and with players who can change a game in any moment. It was a match between teams with different strengths, and sometimes you win and we won today.
“These are moments that will not return. They are unique in football. We saw loads of children on our bus journey to the stadium. They believed in us. It was a special day.
“Now I’m not thinking about anything other than Granada, for sure. Manchester City have enormous financial power, extraordinary players. Madrid, Bayern … the history they have. They are all great teams. But for Atletico Madrid to be among the four best in Europe is a big step – now we can do more.”
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