Chelsea’s Champions League dream ends at the semi-final stage after defeat to a well-drilled Atletico Madrid.
The Blues went in front through Fernando Torres’s first-half strike to give the Blues a temporary advantage, but were pegged back just before the break through Adrian Lopez’s equaliser.
With Chelsea behind on away goals, the Blues needed to attack more, but substitute Samuel Eto’o would inadvertently give the upper hand to the visitors when he tripped Diego Costa inside the box, and the Spaniard made no mistake from the spot to make it 2-1.
Arda Turan added a third in the closing stages to take the game beyond Chelsea’s reach, with credit also due to on-loan goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who performed admirably to keep the Blues at bay.
It means Chelsea’s season will definitely end on May 11, with two Premier League fixtures now remaining.
After resting key figures for Sunday’s match at Liverpool, there were wholesale changes once more for Jose Mourinho.
The main surprise was the presence of Cesar Azpilicueta in a right-wing role, providing added defensive cover to Branislav Ivanovic, while Ashley Cole continued on the left of the back four. John Terry was passed fit to captain the side from the middle, while Eden Hazard returned behind Fernando Torres after a three-week layoff.
John Mikel Obi and Frank Lampard were suspended after picking up bookings in Madrid, while Petr Cech remained out with a shoulder injury, and Mark Schwarzer deputised.
Having failed to break the Blues down in the first leg, Atletico coach Diego Simeone opted for alterations also. Arda Turan replaced Raul Garcia out wide, and Adrian Lopez was passed fit and preferred to Diego in attack. Atletico captain Gabi was suspended, and replaced by former Blue Tiago in central midfield.
Prior to kick-off, the stadium observed a minute’s silence as a mark of respect for two great European coaches, Barcelona’s Tito Vilanova and Vujadin Boškov of Sampdoria and the Yugoslavia national side, who sadly passed away recently.
A frenetic and passionate start to the game almost brought an Atletico opener when Koke’s looping cross evaded Schwarzer and bounced down off the bar before striking Gary Cahill, who was relieved to see the ball end on top of rather than in the net.
It was from a set-piece that Chelsea first threatened, Willian bending a free-kick just over the bar after Ramires had been brought down 13 minutes in.
There followed two Atletico chances, each for Diego Costa, but both were excellently blocked by Chelsea defenders, first Cole and then Cahill.
At the other end, David Luiz’s acrobatic effort had Thibaut Courtois scrambling across goal, and the home crowd on its feet, but dropped just wide of the post.
At the midway stage in the first half there was still no separating the sides, but Chelsea were more attacking in mindset than they had been eight days earlier with the trio of Hazard, Willian and Torres causing the visiting defence a few problems, while Atletico, despite decent possession, were still finding Chelsea impenetrable.
Then came a breakthrough for the Blues. Ivanovic’s ball into space found the darting Willian down the right, and as he held off two Atletico markers, Azpilicueta pounced on the loose ball to deliver a low cross which Torres turned into the bottom corner with the help of a deflection.
The number nine had of course represented Atletico and been a fan of the club, so his celebration was understandably muted, but all around him the Bridge was in a state of frenzy. The job now was to keep the Spanish at bay.
Immediately a wide free-kick brought danger, though Adrian Lopez’s flicked header was easy for Schwarzer to deal with, but his next effort would be damaging.
Tiago clipped a ball into the area which was knocked back across goal, evading Terry and Cole, and falling to Adrian Lopez to half-volley into the net and give his side an away goal.
At the halfway stage it was advantage to Simeone’s men. Could Chelsea turn it around?
Two minutes into the second half Atletico almost went in front on the night, another wicked cross deceiving the Chelsea defence, this time reaching Arda Turan at the far post, who brought a fine instinctive save from Schwarzer.
The Australian wasn’t the only stopper in fine form, with Courtois, a Chelsea loanee we must remember, going down well to his left to keep out Terry’s powerful header from a Willian free-kick.
Chasing the tie, Mourinho made a first switch. Fit again Samuel Eto’o replaced Cole, Azpilicueta reverted to left-back and the Cameroonian joined Torres, who dropped a little deeper, in attack.
Misfortune was to strike the striker though, and Eto’o’s first involvement was to his ide’s detriment, accidentally tripping Diego Costa inside the box and gifting his counterpart a penalty.
The Atletico man, who was booked for complaining about the state of the penalty spot, eventually smashed his kick high into the net. Now Chelsea needed two.
David Luiz hit a post from another wide Willian delivery, Courtois reacting quickly to push the rebound away as the Blues poured forward, before the visitors dealt the killer blow.
A swift move down the right saw the ball played into the area where Arda Turan headed goalwards, his effort bouncing down off the bar and allowing the Turk to tap home into the empty net with Schwarzer beaten.
Nineteen minutes remained but it was the visitors who would threaten again, Schwarzer blocking Filipe Luis at close range after the left-back had burst past two defenders into the area.
Demba Ba had replaced Torres by this stage, and the last change was to introduce Andre Schurrle in place of Willian, but Atletico were well drilled, and showed they too could defend with backs to the wall when necessary.
Hazard and Eto’o would go close in the final stages but found Courtois in excellent form, meaning our run ends at the final four.
There is though still a chance of a fourth Premier League crown, and we will be back at the Bridge on Sunday to face Norwich.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Cole (Eto’o 53); David Luiz, Ramires; Willian (Schurrle 76), Hazard, Azpilicueta; Torres (Ba 66).
Unused subs Hilario, Kalas, Van Ginkel, Oscar.
Goals Torres 35
Booked Cahill 30
Atletico Madrid (4-4-1-1): Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Filipe Luis; Koke, Tiago (c), Mario Suarez, Arda Turan (Cristian Rodriguez 82); Adrian Lopez (sub Raul Garcia 65); Diego Costa (Sosa 75).
Unused subs Aranzubia, Alderweireld, Diego, Villa.
Goals Adrian Lopez 43, Diego Costa (pen) 60, Arda Turan 71
Booked Diego Costa 59, Adrian Lopez 64
Referee Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)