BARCELONA (Reuters) - Up against a baying Vicente Calderon crowd and a battle-hardened Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid could not produce the same dominant display as in their 3-0 win in the first leg but reached another Champions League final on Wednesday thanks to their experience.
Goals from Saul Niguez and an Antoine Griezmann penalty inside 16 minutes gave Atletico tangible hope of pulling off the latest of a sensational set of comebacks in this season’s Champions League but Real could not be intimidated.
The 11-times European champions, who were playing in their seventh consecutive semi-final and targetting a 15th final berth, waited for Atletico to run out of steam and Isco delivered a knockout blow before half-time to make it 2-1, putting them 4-2 up on aggregate.
“We knew Atleti were going to start well and they had a bit of luck in scoring the two goals, but we knew that if we scored it would kill them,” Cristiano Ronaldo told reporters.
“We’re Real Madrid and we showed that we have more experience,” added the prolific Portuguese, whose hat-trick at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg had given Real a huge advantage in the tie.
Unlike last season’s relatively straightforward run to the final, when they faced Roma, Wolfsburg and Manchester City before beating Atletico on penalties, Real have had a bruising path to the final to face Juventus in Cardiff on June 3, knocking out Napoli and Bayern Munich as well as Atletico.
Their talent-packed squad has allowed coach Zinedine Zidane to pick different starting line-ups from one week to the next and still be able to call upon 11 internationals, such as the side that swatted Granada aside 4-0 last Saturday.
“We have a great squad, it’s very complete, and we show that in every game,” added Ronaldo, who drew a blank in the second leg after scoring eight times in the previous three Champions League games.
“No-one said it was going to be easy, but we achieved our objective which was to get through,” said captain Sergio Ramos.
“I‘m proud of this team for showing character when we were 2-0 down and go looking for the goal.”
Real are now chasing a first league and European Cup double since 1958 and could become the first team to defend the Europe’s biggest prize in the Champions League era, which began with the change in format in 1992.
“I‘m delighted to be in a third Champions League final in four years,” added Ramos.
“Tomorrow we have to reflect on how huge an achievement this is after spending 11 years without playing the final. This group has a lot of hunger.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Ralph Boulton