Advantage Chelsea after 0-0 draw with Atletico

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Advantage Chelsea after 0-0 draw with Atletico

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Atletico Madrid’s Miranda and Chelsea’s Fernando Torres, left, fight for the ball during their Champions League semifinal in Spain. [REUTERS/NEWS1]

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho returned to Spain with an ultra-cautious approach as his team earned a 0-0 draw Tuesday with surprise Champions League semifinalists Atletico Madrid in a first leg lacking in excitement.

The stalemate at the Vicente Calderon, which Atletico coach Diego Simeone believes gives Chelsea a slight advantage in next week’s return at Stamford Bridge, came at a cost for the 2012 winners.

Goalkeeper Petr Cech was ruled out for the season after hurting his elbow, captain John Terry limped off with an ankle injury and midfielders Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel earned bookings that mean they are suspended for the second leg.

Atletico, through to the last four of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in 40 years, dominated the defense-minded visitors and pushed hard for a goal.

Back in the Spanish capital for the first time since quitting Atletico’s city rivals Real at the end of last season, Mourinho set out to thwart the home team rather than attack them and the result means his side will be favorites to advance to next month’s final in Lisbon.

The Londoners lost Cech when he fell heavily and hurt his right elbow in the 15th minute, but neither his replacement Mark Schwarzer nor Atletico keeper Thibaut Courtois, on loan from Chelsea, were genuinely tested in the drab affair.

“We had problems before the game, during the game and lost four players, two with injuries and two with yellow cards, but we will fight,” Mourinho told a news conference.

“Nobody starts a game thinking of a 0-0,” added the Portuguese, who ended his final season at Real without any major silverware after losing to Atletico in the King’s Cup final.

“But the game goes in a certain direction where you feel you have to be safe and not concede, try to score in one of the chances you create.

“We had three or four corners and two free kicks in dangerous positions. If we scored one of them the result would have been very good. We didn’t, and we go with a result where everything will be decided at Stamford Bridge.”

There was another cracking atmosphere before kickoff at the 55,000-capacity stadium next to the Manzanares river where fans have been flocking to enjoy what is easily Atletico’s best season in almost 20 years.

They are top of La Liga ahead of Real and champions Barcelona, which they dispatched in the Champions League quarterfinals, and closing in on their first domestic league title since 1996 when Simeone was on the team.

The former Argentina captain deployed an attacking formation against Chelsea with Diego Costa leading the line supported by Raul Garcia as Diego and Koke provided the creative impetus just behind.

Mourinho, by contrast, had containment in mind, with former Atletico captain Fernando Torres alone up front and defender David Luiz in a holding role in a five-man midfield.

Mourinho had instructed his players to sit back and try to catch Atletico on the break.

Reuters



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