The game seemed set to follow last week’s first leg in finishing 0-0, but Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez broke the deadlock by turning in Cristiano Ronaldo’s assist with just two minutes remaining, sending the holders into a fifth consecutive semi-final.
It was again ‘derbi’ Champions League heartbreak for Atletico, who were angry at referee Felix Brych for sending off visiting midfielder Arda Turan for two yellow cards with the game still goalless.
Madrid were missing injured stars Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema, and coach Carlo Ancelotti sprung a surprise by fielding usual centre-back Sergio Ramos in a box-to-box midfield role, in an apparent attempt to match the always combative Atletico side for aggression.
The opening stages were very fast and furious, with Madrid dominating possession but neither team creating too many chances. Ancelotti’s side were badly missing Modric’s playmaking skills, and struggling to break down the well organised Los Colchoneros’ defence.
Atletico actually had the first shot on target, 28 minutes in, when a James Rodriguez mistake gave visiting full-back Jesus Gamez a chance to shoot - but Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas saves easily.
Ronaldo had been quiet, but he had Madrid’s first shot on target a few minutes afterwards, a low 35 yard free kick easily saved by Atletico keeper Jan Oblak. It was proving a frustrating evening for the Portuguese, who was told to get up by Brych after going down very easily when closed down by three opposition defenders.
Just before the break, Ronaldo had the best opportunity of the game so far. Atletico’s overawed looking young midfielder Saul Niguez lost the ball in his own half. A quick move sent Madrid’s topscorer in on goal, but Oblak sprang from his line and saved superbly.
Isco’s first big intervention came soon after half-time, threading a ball through big hole in Atletico defence. Hernandez, getting a rare start due to Benzema’s injury, had plenty of time but first-timed his shot just wide of the far post. Another big chance.
Past the hour mark and the tension grew, with both sides having a series of corners, but being unable to convert. Ronaldo was trying to get Madrid playing, and his cross was headed straight at Oblak by Ramos. Arda Turan, Atletico’s main creative influence, chipped in a lovely cross, but Koke’s header was also right at Casillas.
Atletico substitute Raul Garcia and Madrid defender Pepe were booked for a minor bust-up, as the end of normal time approached and the tension grew around the stadium.
A huge moment then came when Brych showed a harsh second yellow card to Turan for going in too high on Ramos with just 14 minutes remaining. Chicharito soon had another golden opportunity, but he again sent his shot just wide of the post.
Just when the game seemed set for extra-time, Ronaldo broke into the box, and unselfishly squared for Hernandez to become the unlikeliest of Blancos heroes. Madrid now go into Friday’s draw, where they will be joined by La Liga rivals Barcelona, Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich and Juventus.
Casillas, Carvajal, Varane ,Sergio Ramos, Fabio Coentrao (Arbeloa 90), Rodriguez, Pepe ,Kroos, Isco (Illarramendi 90), Hernandez (Jese 90), Ronaldo.
Oblak, Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Jesus Gamez, Turan, Tiago (Gimenez 85), Koke, Saul (Gabi 46), Mandzukic, Griezmann (Garcia 65).
Felix Brych (Germany).