"The whole side put in a great shift," said Antoine Griezmann after starring in Atlético's elimination of holders Barcelona, Filipe Luís noting that the Frenchman has a "special something".
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A brilliant double from Antoine Griezmann helped Atlético Madrid knock UEFA Champions League holders Barcelona out at the quarter-final stage for the second time in three seasons on Wednesday.
Trailing 2-1 from the first leg and without the suspended Fernando Torres, Diego Simeone set up in a compact 4-4-2 formation that was designed to frustrate and contain Barcelona's midfield and attacking threats. It worked perfectly.
"I'm so proud of the team," matchwinner Griezmann said afterwards. "We were up against one of the best sides in the world. We went face-to-face with them and we're into the semi-finals amongst the four best sides.
"It's natural that you have difficulties when you play against Barcelona, but we were very good at the back. We were all exceptional in defence, we pressed well up front. When we scored the goal we were then solid. The whole side put in a great shift."
Midfielders Gabi, Koke, Augusto Fernández and the impressive Saúl Ñíguez refused to allow the likes of Andrés Iniesta, Ivan Rakitić and Sergio Busquets time or space on the ball and cut the supply line to Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar expertly. On the rare occasions they did get through, Diego Godín and rookie partner Lucas Hernández were impenetrable at the heart of the defence.
Seeking to become the first side to win back-to-back editions of the UEFA Champions League, the Catalan outfit were restricted to just four shots on target compared to the home side's six – with only one coming in the first period. All this despite enjoying 78% possession overall.
Griezmann's double means he has scored five in this season's competition – only the fourth Atlético player to ever achieve that figure – and ten in his last ten appearances in all competitions.
"He's an absolutely pivotal player for the side," beamed Atlético full-back Filipe Luís post-match. "It's an honour to have such a great player in the group, above all because he's also down-to-earth."
Griezmann's overall performance was a perfect illustration of all the facets of his game. In a defensive sense he was often seen tracking back deep into his own half to aid his side, while his first goal, a bullet header, showcased his aerial ability. His late penalty under intense pressure was calmness personified.
"He plays for the side and not just himself," Luís added effusively. "We know that forwards always have that special something, and he has certainly got it. That's why he's such a great player for whom there are no limits."
The France forward, meanwhile, was keen to pay tribute to the Calderón faithful who helped their ground live up to its billing as one of European football's fortresses. In the last 29 UEFA club competition matches played there, the home side have lost just twice. "This game was for the fans," he said. "They always push us on and help us play games like tonight."
And what about the next round? The Rojiblancos are within three matches of becoming European champions for the first time, but Griezmann is keeping his feet on the ground and sticking to the same philosophy that has helped Diego Simeone's side get to where they are: "As our boss says: we take it game by game."
At this rate, they will take some stopping.