Diego Simeone expressed his pride after Atletico Madrid booked their place in the semi-finals of the Europa League despite a 1-0 defeat to Sporting Lisbon.
Simeone’s side held a 2-0 lead from the first leg but had to dig deep as Sporting came flying out of the traps at Estadio Jose Alvalade.
Fredy Montero’s first-half header left the tie in the balance, only for the Portuguese outfit to run out of steam in the closing stages.
“Of course I expected to suffer,” Simeone was quoted as saying by Marca. “The teams are increasingly competitive, strong at home, and any cup is difficult.
“Sporting played a great first half and I agree that we were tremendously inaccurate during that period.
“I’m happy to eliminate a tough opponent, and I already said that I expected them to do something different.”
Atletico are the favourites to claim a third Europa League crown after progressing to yet another European semi-final.
Simeone, whose team appeared in the last four of the Champions League in the previous two seasons, believes Atletico have cemented their place among Europe’s top clubs.
He added: “We live with the reality and that is the Europa League. So we play in it with enthusiasm.
“I am very proud, because once again we are among the best in Europe.
“Last year it was the semi-finals of the Champions League and this time the Europa League.”