Atlético Madrid fans unveiled a tifo that read “On the way to Lyon“ before the second leg of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday night. They gave Arsenal glimpses of hope in that first half but they were never really troubled on their way to the Europa League final, the fourth continental for Diego Simeone’s side since the Argentine took over.
The game kicked off with Simeone and Šime Vrsaljko absent for the home side after their red cards a week previous. Thomas Partey deputised at right-back and Mono Burgos took over the reins for Simeone on the touchline — they never missed a beat.
Last Thursday was classic Atlético and the second leg was the same as they lulled Arsenal into believing they had a chance. It was after Atleti had gotten to grips with the away side’s attack that they started growing into the game — Koke went close first before Antoine Griezmann blazed wide shortly afterward.
It was a Griezmann-Diego Costa combo that eventually undid Arsenal at the end of that first half. A long ball by Jan Oblak was headed down by Calum Chambers, who didn’t start but came on after 12 minutes when Laurent Koscielny tore his Achilles in a non-contact injury.
Thomas pushed, won it back and Griezmann picked out Costa, who found himself a yard on the right side of Hector Bellerín. The Spaniard dozed off at the wrong time for Arsene Wenger’s side. Costa shot over Ospina, who was busy coming out trying to close him down.
It was similar in the second half but for Arsenal, it was a case of the more hurry the less speed. They bungled chances and tried to force the issue without ever really troubling Atlético. Griezmann had a free on the hour mark that was just a whisker away and Atlético were still comfortable with the better chances of the two sides.
They did have to do some defending after that. However, it was short-lived as Griezmann had the chance to put the game to bed but Atletico would have to wait again. Oblak was called to save from Granit Xhaka but Arsenal’s chances were more chance than choice.
In the end, it was always going to be a difficult task coming to the Wanda Metropolitano needing a goal, and Arsenal couldn’t manage it. And in a way, it’s indicative of Arsenal’s slump under Wenger as they limp out of Europe on a frustrating night for visiting fans.
Atlético will try to convince Antoine Griezmann that he can be successful at Atlético and winning a Europa League final would be a fine way to start building their pitch to him when the summer rolls around.