Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone says Fernando Torres has proved his critics wrong after his two goals doused Real Madrid’s hopes of the Copa del Rey defense on Thursday.
Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo canceled the former Liverpool and Chelsea striker’s brace as Atleti advanced 4-2 on aggregate.
Torres scored in the opening minutes of each half to end his goal drought at the Santiago Bernebeu and set up a quarter-final meeting between the Spanish champions and Barcelona, who were 4-0 (9-0 agg) winners at Elche later on Thursday.
“He went away, grew up and now is a man. I am very happy for him. In games like this he responds as he did. The fans are happy and his arrival has helped us, despite some people’s doubts,” the Argentine coach said.
After making a quiet return in the first leg 2-0 win over Real, the Spaniard got Simeone’s nod to start in the absence of the unwell Mario Mandzukic and not even Ronaldo’s Balon d’Or pre-kickoff ceremony could deter him from wrecking havoc on Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
He poked home the opener from Antoine Griezemann’s cross just after 46 seconds but Ramos restored parity in the last minute of the first half. There were not to be a recurrence of the fightback in last season’s Uefa Champions League final as Torres again collected Griezeman’s pass, wrong-footed Pepe and fired under goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Ronaldo salvaged a door for the Los Blancos, who were left needing four goals to progress on the night.
Atletico are now unbeaten in five Madrid derbies this season but Simeone refused to accept they are now superior to their neighbours.
“Such an early goal changed the rhythm of the game. It wasn’t in the plan. Every time we face Madrid we face an extremely strong team. They are the best team in the world, they just won the Club World Cup and the Champions League.”