Club Atlético de Madrid have hardly blazed a trail to the UEFA Europa League final in Hamburg, but scoring when it mattered – usually through Diego Forlán – leaves them on the brink of a second major continental title.
Since eliminating Panathinaikos FC in August's UEFA Champions League play-offs, Atlético have mustered just two wins in 14 European games, advancing by the skin of their teeth time and again. They only qualified for the UEFA Europa League courtesy of an away goal in their head-to-head record against APOEL FC in Europe's premier club competition and little has changed since the turn of the year. Of the four UEFA Europa League ties they have come through, three were away-goal wins, the other courtesy of a last-minute Forlán strike. UEFA.com assesses Atlético's route to the final.
UEFA Champions League Group D
Having brushed aside Panathinaikos, Atlético stumbled into the competition proper with a goalless home draw against APOEL. Following defeats by FC Porto and Chelsea FC, they were bottom of the standings with just one point and no goals scored. It proved the end for coach Abel Resino, and though Quique Sánchez Flores could not inspire a huge improvement, draws against Chelsea (2-2) and APOEL (1-1) were enough to pip the Cypriot side to third.
Round of 32
Club Atlético de Madrid 1-1 2-1 Galatasaray AŞ (agg: 3-2)
Forlán was Los Rojiblancos' hero in Istanbul as his 90th-minute winner took the visitors through. Atlético had the early edge in the tie, forging ahead through José Antonio Reyes's free-kick at the Vicente Calderón only for Kader Keita to earn Galatasaray a draw. The Ivorian international was on target again a week later, this time cancelling out Simão's opener, but after Caner Erkin was sent off, Forlán had the last word.
Round of 16
Club Atlético de Madrid 0-0 2-2 Sporting Club de Portugal (agg: 2-2, Atlético won on away goals)
The odds looked stacked against Atlético as Sporting celebrated after the first leg, the visitors having played more than an hour with ten men following Leandro Grimi's dismissal. Tonel also saw red late on. Atlético failed to muster more than a couple of hopeful Sergio Agüero efforts, though the Argentina striker needed just three minutes to score in Lisbon. He had another before the interval and while headers from Liedson and Anderson Polga pegged them back both times, the Spanish side held on.
Valencia CF 2-2 0-0 Club Atlético de Madrid (agg: 2-2, Atlético won on away goals)
These sides have met 140 times in the Liga, Valencia claiming 53 wins to Atlético's 51, and there was little to choose in the last eight either. Injury-ravaged Valencia burst out of the blocks but were twice forced to come from behind after second-half goals from Forlán and Antonio López, with David Villa making it 2-2 eight minutes from time. They were equal in Madrid, too, Forlán and Villa both hitting the woodwork as Atlético weathered late turbulence to advance.
Club Atlético de Madrid 1-0 1-2 (aet) Liverpool FC (agg: 2-2, Atlético won on away goals)
Forlán was again Atlético's hero as his extra-time effort took the Spanish side through to their first major European final since the 1985/86 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. Having registered the only goal of the first leg, the former Manchester United FC striker delivered the killer blow as the Reds saw a match-winning position evaporate at Anfield. The home side had turned the tables following Atlético's first-leg win, Alberto Aquilani making it 1-1 on aggregate and Yossi Benayoun putting them ahead at the start of extra time.
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