Chelsea were unwaveringly stubborn in a goalless draw at the Vicente Calderon Stadium as manager Jose Mourinho opted for a defensive approach against Atletico, who had never lost to English visitors in nine previous matches and were the last unbeaten team in the competition.
Los Rojiblancos, in the last four for the first time in 40 years, appeared undeterred by the pedigree of Chelsea and Mourinho in the competition, but encountered a black wall of shirts. Striker Fernando Torres, starting against his former club, cut an isolated figure as the visitors packed men behind the ball, with Gary Cahill marshalling dangerman Diego Costa superbly.
Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, playing against his parent club, was a spectator for much of the contest, in which Chelsea’s long-time No 1 Petr Cech went off injured, nursing his arm, after a heavy fall inside the opening 20 minutes. He was later reported to have dislocated his shoulder. Chelsea captain John Terry also went off 18 minutes from time, forcing a defensive reshuffle, but still the visitors held firm to frustrate Atletico.
Chelsea are likely to be a different proposition at Stamford Bridge next Wednesday, but they could be without three stalwarts in Cech, Terry and Frank Lampard, who will serve a suspension following a second-half booking.
Like Lampard, who might have been shown a second yellow card for handball, John Obi Mikel will be banned for the second leg after being booked as Chelsea’s approach came at a cost.
Costa – a rumoured summer target for Mourinho – and Terry acquainted themselves in one of a number of testy opening exchanges before Cech dealt with an inswinging corner.
As he punched the ball over from underneath his own crossbar, David Luiz pushed Raul Garcia into the Chelsea goalkeeper, who hit the ground with a thud.
The home fans showed little sympathy, chanting Courtois’ name as Cech received treatment before Mark Schwarzer came on for his second Champions League appearance.
Atletico faced a defensive dam and Mario Suarez tried his luck from 25 yards, firing narrowly wide of Schwarzer’s goal.
Azpilicueta threw himself towards Costa to block and Diego shot straight at Schwarzer as the half ended goalless.
Chelsea had few chances of note in the first period and Courtois was called upon only once, to claim a Lampard corner.
Lampard’s shot was easily held by the Belgium goalkeeper early in the second half and then Courtois saved from Torres.
Defensive duties resumed for Chelsea, with Cole and Luiz making key defensive headers and Diego shooting wide.
Terry was forced off after a couple of meaty challenges saw him clutching his ankle - though again, contact with Luiz may have been to blame. The Brazilian dropped into defence as Terry was replaced by Schurrle, who took Ramires’ berth wide on the right.
Atletico tried to exploit the defensive reshuffle and a mazy Felipe Luis run almost led to an opening for Garcia, but Chelsea frantically cleared.
As the hosts searched for an opening the ball hit Lampard’s arm, resulting in a melee with the Atletico players calling for the midfielder’s dismissal.
Mikel and Gabi were booked in the aftermath, earning suspensions for both players, before Schwarzer turned Gabi’s resulting free-kick round the post.
Substitute Arda Turan headed narrowly wide at the back post and Garcia also missed the target from a similar position.
Chelsea had a chance when Torres was felled by Suarez two minutes from time, but Luiz blasted the free kick off target.