- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

MADRID (AP) - Chelsea capitalized on its defensive strategy, playing to a 0-0 draw with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.

Jose Mourinho’s ultra-defensive tactics worked at the Vicente Calderon Stadium despite the early exit of injured goalkeeper Petr Cech in the 18th minute. Mark Schwarzer came on with Cech‘s long-term replacement, Thibaut Courtois, playing in the opposite goal, on-loan from Chelsea.

Atletico nearly broke through in the final 15 minutes. Raul Garcia and substitute Arda Turan sent headers wide, and Gabi Fernandez and Diego Costa forced Schwarzer into saves.

The return leg is at Stamford Bridge on April 30. The winner plays Bayern Munich or Real Madrid in the final.

The English club can feel upbeat about its chances of returning to the final, two years after beating Bayern Munich on penalties. Atletico leads the Spanish league and hasn’t been this far in Europe’s top competition since 1974.

Mourinho’s game plan was not pretty, but certainly proved effective as the Blues stifled Atletico. The Spanish club’s best opportunity of the first half forced Cech from the game with an injured shoulder when he tipped a corner kick over the bar. Schwarzer came on to chants of “Courtois,” with Atletico fans mocking Chelsea’s decision to loan the Belgian goalkeeper.

Raul Garcia, who limped off at the end, headed a pair of chances over the top in the final 10 minutes when Atletico pressed forward. Diego Costa was unable to direct his header past Schwarzer.

Yellow cards to Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel mean the Chelsea midfield pair will miss the game at Stamford Bridge.


Follow Paul Logothetis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP

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