Atletico Madrid did just enough to defend its first-leg lead against Sporting CP to reach the Europa League semifinals.
Atletico Madrid have made it to the semifinal stage of the Europa League despite losing their second leg tie against Sporting CP 1-0.
Atletico took a two-goal lead into the tie in the hopes of advancing to the next round. But having seen both Barcelona and Real Madrid struggle against supposedly lesser Italian opposition in the days prior, they must have been wary of the Portuguese outfit.
The game got off to a very slow start, but Jan Oblak was forced into a sensational save, springing to his right to get a palm to a headed effort from Sebastian Coates off a Sporting corner in the 12th minute.
The home side would eventually strike, with Fredy Montero heading in from the tightest of angles after Oblak tipped a cross his way in the 28th minute.
Sporting's domination nearly resulted in another goal during half-time stoppage time when Brian Ruiz directed a strike towards Atletico's goal from way out. Oblak was on top of it this time, however, tipping it above his crossbar to keep the lead at 1-0 heading into the half.
Diego Simeone's side went into the break leading on aggregate, but in no way comfortable as they were made to contemplate how poorly they fared during the first period. Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann were especially to blame, having failed to link up with each other all of the half.
Things hardly got better on that front in the second half. The two strikers appeared to draw closer and linked up in the opposing box in the early going, but Costa pulled up with a hamstring problem in the 51st minute and would have to be replaced by Fernando Torres.
The visitors did continue their positive play, but there was little to discuss for most of the half. despite decent efforts from both teams.
Griezmann finally broke clear of the Sporting defense to find himself one-on-one with Rui Patricio in the 81st minute and looked poised to stick it past the stopper, but the Sporting man was the better of the two, making the crucial save.
The Frenchman was released in similar fashion just two minutes later. He beat the keeper this time, but also beat the left post, shooting just wide of the mark.
Sporting were left to heave the ball forward in the dwindling minutes, but Atleti held on to their 2-1 aggregate lead to advance to the next stage. They will be hoping that the injury to Costa isn't very serious, though, as they will need the Spaniard to be at his best in the upcoming round.