Atletico Madrid and Chelsea will have it all to play for when they meet in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final in London on Wednesday next week after a 0-0 draw in the first leg at the Vicente Calderon in Madrid on Tuesday.
Chances were far and few between as Chelsea set up to stifle the hosts, with two late headers from Raul Garcia the closest Atletico came to breaking the deadlock.
The English side did suffer two significant injuries, though, as both goalkeeper Petr Cech and captain John Terry were forced off ruling them out of the second leg.
Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel will also be missing for Chelsea, along with Atletico captain Gabi, at Stamford Bridge as they all received yellow cards that means they are suspended for the second leg.
“Petr Cech’s season is over, don’t ask me technically, but his season is over. For John we’ll have to make the final for him to play again,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said.
Mourinho hailed his players defensive efforts, which allows them to play “the game of their life” when they host Atletico next week.
“This result means even more that the game will be decided by fine details in the second leg,” he said. “We had problems before the game and during the game, we lost four players; two with injuries and two with yellow cards, but we will fight. We were speaking about playing the game of our lives before and now the game of the lives is at Stamford Bridge.”
However, Atletico boss Diego Simeone remains confident his side can reach only their second ever Champions League final next week.
“It was a classic example of a Champions League semi-final with both teams playing with their own objectives,” Simeone said. “Ours was to score, but they have a very good defense and defended very well. The tie is completely open. They are playing at home and will feel better after tonight, but we will see what happens.”
Fernando Torres started on his first game back at the Vicente Calderon as a visiting player since leaving to join Liverpool in 2007, but he cut an isolated figure as Chelsea were happy to stick 10 men behind the ball.
The visitors suffered a big blow after just 17 minutes, though, when Garcia upended Cech in his attempt to reach an Atletico corner from the left and the Czech goalkeeper was unable to continue.
Veteran Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer was forced into action to replace Cech, becoming the oldest player to appear in the knockout stages of the Champions League in doing so at the age of 41.
“It happened very quickly, but I’m getting used to it,” Schwarzer told ITV. “I just tried to do my job, but like all the others I was up for it. We knew if we could match their determination our quality would shine through.”
Mario Suarez shot just wide and Diego Costa had an effort brilliantly blocked by Cesar Azpilicueta as Atletico began to build up some semblance of pressure toward the end of the half.
However, Diego Ribas’ tame low effort that was easily gathered by Schwarzer was their only effort on target before the break.
Chelsea finally registered a shot on target three minutes after the restart when Lampard’s volley was well held by Courtois.
Schwarzer then nearly gifted Atletico the opener as his poor punch landed at the feet of the Diego, but the Brazilian delayed his shot and the Chelsea stopper got back to make a comfortable save.