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.