Holders Barcelona crashed out of the Champions League after being stifled by a brilliantly well-organised Atletico Madrid and undone by two goals from Antoine Griezmann in a 2-0 quarterfinal, second leg defeat on Wednesday.
Griezmann headed home from Saul Niguez’s exquisite cross to give the home side a deserved lead in the 36th minute and provide them with a platform from which they comfortably contained their uncharacteristically limp opponents.
The France forward then scored again from the penalty spot with two minutes remaining, following a handball from Andres Iniesta, to complete a 3-2 aggregate victory that eliminated Barca at the quarterfinal stage for the second time in three seasons.
The result was a shining example of Atletico coach Simeone’s tactical astuteness as his side restricted Barcelona to very few chances.
While the visitors grew into the game in the second half, they struggled to create clear openings. Their best opportunity fell to Luis Suarez, the scorer of both goals in their 2-1 win in the first leg, but the Uruguayan could only shoot straight at keeper Jan Oblak.
Barcelona, who were bidding to become the first team to retain the Champions League, seem to have run out of steam at the end of the season, having won just one of their last five matches.
They have not looked the same team since their 39-game unbeaten run was brought to an end at the start of the month, while they came into the Wednesday’s match on the back of a 1-0 defeat at Real Sociedad.
The Atletico supporters created a fervent atmosphere and the noise at kickoff seemed to spur the hosts into a strong start, with Gabi blazing over and Yannick Carrasco and Griezmann testing Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Atletico took the lead in the tie on away goals when Saul carved out a cross with the outside of his boot towards Griezmann, who headed into the top corner.
Barca grew frustrated as the match wore on in what was a niggly encounter with numerous fouls as well as incidents of playacting and time wasting.
After Griezmann doubled the lead from the spot, Barcelona still had two minutes plus stoppage time to find a goal that would have forced extra time and Lionel Messi nearly conjured a late leveller but sent a free kick over the bar.