Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti defended his decision to start center-back Sergio Ramos in midfield because of injuries to his squad, and praised match-winner Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez for never giving up as he "suffered" through a challenging season.
Hernandez scored the crucial late winning goal in his team's Champions League quarterfinal second-leg win vs. Atletico Madrid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Chicharito was starting just his fifth La Liga or Champions League game of the season for Real, but he was perfectly placed to sweep home Cristiano Ronaldo's superb lay-off with just two minutes remaining in the tie, and send Madrid through to the last four 1-0 on aggregate.
The Los Blancos coach told his post-game news conference that he was delighted for the on-loan Manchester United player, who had never shown a bad attitude even while rarely getting a sniff as Karim Benzema has been first-choice all through the campaign.
"Chicharito played very well," Ancelotti said. "He has suffered a lot this season, has played very little, but in the end he deserves this very important goal for us. He never dropped his hands, even in difficult moments, trained very well, and in the end it paid off for him."
The game's lone, decisive goal came late in a very tense encounter at the Bernabeu, but Ancelotti said the 90 minutes had played out as he had expected.
"What I wanted was that, to have good control of the play, and try and look for attacking options without hurry," Ancelotti said. "This all went well, the team was controlling the game very well for the whole game. I believe we prepared well.
"We did not need to rush, but to control the play. We had confidence from the first game, that we could wait and find a good moment to score."
Given injuries to Benzema, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, Ancelotti chose to start Ramos in midfield even after the Spaniard had suffered when previously played in the position against Barcelona last season.
"Many people killed me for the game against Barcelona, but I stayed alive," he said. "We wanted to avoid problems on the counter, and to have concentration at dead-balls. Because with Ramos, Pepe and [Raphael] Varane we are more comfortable at corners, or throw-ins.
"Sergio has quality to play in this position, he sacrificed himself for the team. I can have an idea, but the player needs to be convinced to help the team. He did it very well."
Ancelotti said he expected his team to push on from this, and to fight this year to repeat last May's Champions League final win over Atletico.
"This was a key game for our season," he said. "It was a difficult game, but not the one which gives me most satisfaction. That was the final in Lisbon. Our dream to play another final remains alive. So it was an important game in that sense.
"We have all our objectives still to play for. We will try and go for everything. This weekend we have a difficult game, then the semifinal. When we are still alive, we are very dangerous. That which does not kill us makes us stronger. I'm joking, becoming a philosopher."
The Italian coach, whose position was potentially under threat had Madrid lost tonight, said he did not see the passage to the last four as any sort of personal victory.
"Each game is a test," he said. "I feel no personal vindication. I have the affection of the club, of the players, of many fans. Criticism sometimes can be positive."
Madrid now go into Friday's draw along with La Liga rivals Barcelona, Juventus and Bayern Munich. Ancelotti said he had no preference for a next opponent, and hoped to have both Bale and Benzema back for the semifinal first leg in two week's time.
"We have respect for all the teams who are in the draw," he said. "Whatever happens, all the teams deserve to be into the semis. We will wait and see what happens in the draw. If we have the motivation we had today, we can compete with everyone, without problems. We have time to get our injured players back. Things will improve."