Stalemate suits fortunate Atletico

A tense second leg at the Vicente Calderon ended goalless, putting
Atletico into a last-four tie against Rafael Benitez’s Reds,
conquerors of Benfica. There was little of the excitement of the
first leg which finished in a 2-2 draw, but those away goals at the
Mestalla proved crucial for Atletico, who will now face former
favourite Fernando Torres and his Liverpool side. The first half on
Thursday night was an evenly-fought battle during which neither
goalkeeper had much to do. Atletico went close with efforts from
Sergio Aguero and Antonio Lopez while visiting custodian Cesar
Sanchez needed to tip over a looping Diego Forlan shot that
threatened to dip under the crossbar. For injury-hit Valencia, who
started with five forwards on the pitch and two midfielders at
centre-back, David Villa fired their best opening into the
side-netting. The first real chance of the match came two minutes
after half-time, and it really should have seen Forlan putting
Atletico ahead. The Uruguayan was sent clean through from the
halfway line but he opted to try and scoop the ball over Cesar and
his lob ended dropping just wide of the post. Atletico were looking
the more threatening after the break and Raul Garcia brought a
parry out of Cesar from 25 yards before Tomas Ujfalusi was denied
when one-on-one with the veteran goalkeeper. With 20 minutes to go
Valencia coach Unai Emery opted to send on giant striker Nikola
Zigic and winger Vicente Rodriguez in a double substitution.
However, it was Atletico who were still making the running and
Forlan came within inches of breaking the deadlock in the 75th
minute when his effort was tipped onto the post by Cesar. Five
minutes later Villa also hit the woodwork as Valencia finally broke
through the Atletico defence. Pablo Hernandez’s superb through-ball
was latched onto by Villa but he blazed against the crossbar with
only David De Gea to beat. With their European dreams fading,
Valencia piled forward in the closing stages and Zigic and David
Navarro both brought fingertip saves out of De Gea with headers.
Valencia were left fuming when they failed to win a late penalty
decision against Zigic while Vicente fired over from 14 yards, but
it was not enough for the visitors.