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Belief key to Atletico Madrid’s penalty success, says Diego Simeone

Photo credit: AFP

Photo credit: AFP

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone hailed his side’s belief as they edged out a brave effort from PSV Eindhoven to reach the Champions League quarter-finals 8-7 in an agonizing penalty shootout on Tuesday.

Neither side was able to break the deadlock across 210 minutes of the two-legged tie.

However, Atletico were clinical from the spot as they converted all of their penalties with Juanfran slotting home the winner after Luciano Narsingh hit the crossbar with PSV’s eighth attempt.

“It was an enormous celebration for the whole stadium,” said Simeone.

“The spectacle you see in the stands was tremendous. We won’t ever stop believing, that is for sure.”

It is the second consecutive season that Atletico have progressed to the last eight on penalties after overcoming Bayer Leverkusen in similar fashion last season.

Yet, despite Atletico’s spectacular efficiency from the spot, Simeone insisted they hadn’t practiced penalties beforehand.

And he said the credit should go to his assistant German Burgos for deciding which players should take the responsibility.

“We don’t practice penalties. It isn’t the same to do it with all the fans behind the goal, the tension of the game and 120 minutes in the legs,” he added.

“It is an act that shows personality, authority and decisiveness.

“German did it against Leverkusen and he did it again today. All the congratulations should be for him because it isn’t easy to choose.”

– ‘Heart-stopping tie’ –

Right-back Juanfran was Atletico’s unlikely hero, but he also hailed the belief installed by Simeone as the key to their success.

“It was a heart-stopping tie,” he said.

“We believe, our coach makes us believe and we have a lot of hunger and heart.”

Atletico fell just short against city rivals Real Madrid in last season’s quarter-finals and most memorably in the 2014 final when they were a minute away from winning the competition for the first time.

Juanfran is hoping to avoid Madrid and La Liga leaders Barcelona in Friday’s quarter-final draw.

“I don’t want to draw a Spanish side,” he added.

“Whoever we get will be very strong and it will be tie just like this one.”

PSV coach Phillip Cocu admitted he was left with a bittersweet taste having seen his young side match one of Europe heavyweights over the two legs and come so close to a place in the quarter-finals for the first time in nine years.

“There are mixed emotions. On the one hand I am very proud. We played well in the two games, but especially here,” he said.

“Tactically we played very well with a lot of discipline.

“We were close to the quarter-finals in the penalties, so there is also great disappointment.”

“If we had scored, the chances of going through were huge. They would have needed to score two and we defended well.

“We needed a little bit of luck. With the few chances we had you have to be clinical and in the end we couldn’t score.”

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