Diego Costa’s goal on the stroke of half-time condemned us to defeat in Madrid as we were knocked out of the Europa League on Thursday night.
We came into this semi-final second leg knowing we needed to score, and although we managed to get in behind the Atletico defence numerous times, we could not find the goal we craved as the hosts’ storied defence held firm.
In a tight first half of few clear-cut chances, we had our fair share of possession but found it difficult to find a way through the Atletico backline.
But our task was made even tougher when, with just eight minutes on the clock, Laurent Koscielny went down clutching his Achilles and had to be stretchered off in agony.
It was a dispiriting sight to see our captain in so much pain, but his replacement, Calum Chambers, settled quickly and soon made a fine tackle in the area to dispossess Costa.
Alex Lacazette then rounded Jan Oblak in the area, but with the angle too tight to shoot he elected to try to cut the ball back into the six-yard box – only for Atletico to scramble it clear.
The Spanish side were not at their best, but soon fashioned two good chances as first Koke fired wide and then Antoine Griezmann moments later.
It had been a low-key half, but right on the stroke of the interval the home side took the lead as Griezmann picked out Costa, who raced in on goal and beat David Ospina.
It didn’t change our situation too radically as we still needed to score, and we had half a chance in the 52nd minute as the ball dropped kindly to Aaron Ramsey in the area but he shot wide under pressure from Diego Godin.
We were upping our intensity in search of an equaliser, with Ozil putting an inviting cross right across the face of goal and Granit Xhaka seeing a firm shot saved by Oblak.
Atletico still remained a threat on the break, and they had a golden chance to double their lead when Costa found Greizmann in the area but Chambers slid in to block the France international’s shot.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – on for Wilshere – came close to equalising with a half-volley that flew just over, while Ospina had to make a sharp save to deny Fernando Torres in the closing minutes.
But try as we might, there was to be no way through, no fairytale finish to Arsene Wenger’s reign and our Europa League adventure was over.
HOW IT HAPPENED
We host Burnley on Sunday in what is bound to be an emotionally-charged day for Arsène Wenger’s last home game as our manager.
There will be a host of activities both before and after the game to commemorate his 22-year spell in charge, while we will also be saying goodbye to Per Mertesacker, Women’s captain Alex Scott and legendary kit man and founder of the Women’s team, Vic Akers.
With a place in the Europa League final on the line, there was tension in the air at the Wanda Metropolitano – and plenty of action on the pitch.
Here are the key incidents:
6 – Chance for Atletico as Costa beats Koscielny as is clear in the box, but he fires over from a tight angle
8 – Koscielny is stretchered off with an Achilles injury, Chambers on to replace him
24 – Another chance for Atletico as they break at pace, but Chambers dispossesses Costa in the area
27 – There’s a scramble in the area after Lacazette goes around Oblak and then tries to cut it back, but the ball in cleared
37 – Koke shoots just wide from the edge of the area for Atletico
38 – Griezmann takes it down in the area, spins and drags his shot wide of the far post
45 – Goal – Atletico break and pick out Costa, who races into the area and beats Ospina
52 – A chance for Ramsey as Wilshere’s mishit shot drops to him, but he slices his shot wide
59 – Greizmann curls a free-kick just wide
63 – Xhaka shoots from 25 yards and Oblak palms it around the post
66 – Big chance for Atletico as Costa buys space and lays it back to Griezmann, but his shot is blocked
72 – So close as Mkhitaryan pounces on a loose ball in the area and half-volleys it just over
88 – Ospina makes a sharp save from Torres
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