MADRID - Fernando Torres hailed Atletico Madrid's tense 3-2 win on penalties over Bayer Leverkusen as the reason he returned to his boyhood club three months ago.
Torres scored Atletico's final spot-kick and then watched as Stefan Kiessling blazed over to seal Atletico's place in the last eight for the second consecutive season.
"I never had any doubt I made the right decision in coming here. This is something I'll never forget," said Torres, who came through the ranks to captain the club before leaving for Liverpool 2007.
"To play in the Champions League on nights like this is a gift." Mario Suarez scored the only goal of the night in normal time as Atletico cancelled out the Germans' 1-0 first leg advantage to send the tie the full distance.
And in a topsy-turvy shootout that included five misses, Atletico squeezed through to the last eight for the second consecutive season.
"The last time I was at a Champions League game at the Calderon I was 11 or 12," added Torres.
"To experience it on the field is incredible. I can only thank the fans. The were supporting us until the end and that is why they are the best fans in the world." The drama at the Calderon outweighed good football as chances were hard to come by throughout the 120 minutes.
"We controlled the game but with the score as it was, it wasn't easy," said Torres.
"A draw was a fair result over the two legs and once it goes to penalties, the team that has the most luck wins." To cap a glorious night for Atletico, it was also confirmed that inspirational coach Diego Simeone is nearing an agreement with a club on a contract extension until 2020.
"We are going to have good news in the coming days," his sister and agent Natalia Simeone told Television Espanola.
Simeone himself insisted he had not yet put pen to paper and instead wanted to highlight the incredible effort made by his players despite missing the experienced duo of Diego Godin and Tiago through suspension.
"I value greatly the effort of the group, they work very hard. They never give up, and you can see that today even with those that haven't played as many minutes (throughout the season)," said the Argentine.
"It is very difficult for a team like Atletico Madrid to be in the best eight teams in Europe two years in a row."
Leverkusen boss Roger Schmidt, meanwhile, hailed the efforts of his young side to take last season's beaten finalists to the brink of elimination.
"After conceding an early goal we defended very well, we made an extraordinary effort.
"We have to bear in mind that we have a young team without much experience and it isn't easy to resist such pressure in a stadium like the Vicente Calderon.
"In the end in the penalties it was a shame that we didn't have the cool head needed to go through."