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Football: Mourinho left to rue class of Courtois: On-loan goalkeeper's brilliant save is turning point as Atletico Madrid battle past Chelsea to reach final

May 1, 2014

Dominic Fifield at Stamford Bridge

Jose Mourinho admitted an "impossible" save by Thibaut Courtois, the Chelsea goalkeeper on loan at Atletico Madrid, had been critical as his team were well beaten in the Champions League semi-final. The Spanish club progress to confront their city rivals, Real, in the showpiece in

Lisbon later this month.

This game, and with it the tie, was level on aggregate when Courtois dived to his left to turn aside a 53rd-minute header from John Terry at full stretch. The young Belgian's involvement in the tie had been the subject of some controversy, with the terms of his loan to Atletico demanding payments of around pounds 2.5m for each appearance made against his parent club. Atletico had claimed they could not afford to pay those fees, prompting Uefa to insist any deal that affected the competition's integrity should be deemed "unenforceable".

Courtois played both legs of the tie and, having denied Terry, saw Samuel Eto'o foul Diego Costa to concede a penalty and hand Atletico an initiative they did not relinquish. "The difference was one moment in the second half, where the Atletico goalkeeper makes an impossible save from John Terry's header, an amazing save, and instead of 2-1 to Chelsea a few minutes later [we concede] a penalty," said Mourinho. "After that, there was only one team on the pitch. My team played with pride, honour and professionalism, but we had immediately the feeling the game was lost.

"From that moment the game was controlled by Atletico in a very mature way. They had complete control. They had the feeling the game was in their hands, and after that they were very solid, very mature, a real team. I knew that before, and I congratulate them now." Asked specifically about the irony of Courtois being a Chelsea player, with the youngster's future next season still unresolved and Atletico keen to retain him for a further 12 months, the manager added: "No, he's the Atletico goalkeeper, and he did his job."

Mourinho's heaviest home defeat as Chelsea manager was confirmed by Arda Turan's late third to inflict his fourth successive exit in the semi-finals of this competition since he won it with Internazionale in 2010, and his third with Chelsea. Mourinho said his side would be "stronger" next season, with Hazard confirming on French television that this team "isn't built to play [expansive] football, but is good on the counterattack, a bit like Real [Madrid] were against Bayern Munich".

They hope to become more adventurous against the elite next term with reinforcements added in the summer. "Next season will be better than this season - that's our objective," said Mourinho, who had selected Cesar Azpilicueta in midfield with Oscar injured and both Frank Lampard and Mikel John Obi banned. "Our young players will be better, hopefully we will have a couple of players to improve our team and we will try to do better.

"We are realistic but, at the same time, there have been times this season when we have been optimistic. There is a moment where you can dream and you think things are possible. Because we did well in the Champions League and in the Premier League, there was a moment where we felt we could do it. In the Premier League it was the match against Aston Villa that made me believe that we had no chance to be champions. After that we built again the momentum and we were waiting for the Liverpool match to be the title match, but we had another surprise against Sunderland. Even so, the boys did a very good Premier League.

"In the Champions League, it's the same. We knew there were teams with more potential than us, who were more ready than us to win the competition, but because you go step by step and beat Paris Saint-Germain after a 3-1 defeat in the first leg, you build your dream. And today, I think it was proved that we had our chance. Until minute 59 we were completely in the game. But the save and the penalty were crucial and, from that moment, the game was over. The players gave everything, but they can go home with a clear conscience. They did their work well but lost to a very good team."

Mourinho conceded that Atletico and Real were "probably the best two teams in the competition", with Diego Simeone's side the only unbeaten team in this year's Champions League to date and now in their first final for 40 years.

"This will be a new experience for us," said Simeone. "Real are a very powerful side used to these big European nights, but we know them. This is a very special moment for us."


Thibaut Courtois was credited by Jose Mourinho with pulling off an 'impossible' save that helped to turn around the match

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Source: Guardian (UK)