It was a long walk and a very scenic route, but in the end Atlético Madrid grabbed a crucial away goal in a 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Thursday night. The first leg of this Europa League semifinal got off to a disastrous start, as Šime Vrsaljko and Diego Simeone were both sent off inside the first 15 minutes, but Antoine Griezmann’s 82nd minute goal cancelled out Alexandre Lacazette’s 61st minute opener.
Simeone and Griezmann talked about a difficult but rewarding first leg upon its conclusion.
On the Vrsaljko red and his expulsion:
“It’s hard to comment. You saw the images, referees [do their job] with fast heartbeats like players and coaches. He [referee Clement Turpin] decided to send off Vrsaljko and before my first protest for a yellow he should have given to Arsenal, he decided I had to leave the pitch.”
On his players’ determination:
“In these 90 minutes I experienced important sensations. I saw from the stands that these guys, these Atlético Madrid players, are almost heroes for how they endured this game, in a season in which we’ve had 16 or 17 players. It’s tremendous.”
On the value of defending:
“Do you know how hard it is to defend? They have no idea. Football is made to play — to defend for 85 minutes takes balls. It’s a message for the people who follow us, that we need them more than ever.”
On the match and the second leg at home:
“The start was a little crazy, many things happened. We have a nice match back home and hopefully the fans create a crazy atmosphere, that they want to see us go to the final. We’ll give it our all.”
On Jan Oblak’s performance:
“Jan now is the best goalkeeper. It’s not just because he’s my teammate, but because of the stops he makes and the points he gives us.”
On his future:
“We’re talking with the club to see what can be done.”