Diego Costa provides Atletico Madrid with a crucial away win against AC Milan as the Spanish side look to book their place in the next round of the Champions League.
The two clubs headed into this match on the back of contrasting fortunes this season, yet AC Milan were expected to put up a solid performance against Atletico Madrid, they have always done in big European matches. The home side started the match brightly and looked the more likely of the two sides to open the scoring with Kaka pulling all the strings in attack. But it was a late goal from Diego Costa which proved to be the winner and could yet prove to be the decisive goal in this tie.
The 25-year-old striker, who has been in superb form this season, headed home the winner after AC Milan failed to properly deal with a corner at the close stages of the game. Milan would feel that they should have got something out of the game but Thibaut Courtois pulled out some fantastic saves in Atletico’s goal to keep the clean sheet. Now the Italian side will have to get a result away from home and Atletico Madrid are yet to lose a match in their stadium in the league this season.
Diego Simeone singled out Courtois and Costa for their vital contributions in this game.
“The game began well. The first ten minutes were good for us, we were playing in their half. However, after one moment where we lost possession the team started to lose ground. Because Milan are a great team, they came close to making us pay.
“After the break, we changed and were much more aggressive which changed the outcome of the game. With five players across the middle, and Mario Suárez playing deep, we were able to deal better with their attacks. You also saw that we worked harder in the second half. They came at us playing an offensive game, using the wings, and they are a team that, whichever side they attack you from, can cause problems.
“In the first half, our goalkeeper’s performance was fundamental. In the second, it was Diego Costa who made the difference by taking advantage of the chance that came to him. We know it will still be difficult [in the second leg]. We have taken a solid step but there is so much still to play for at the Vicente Calderón.” – The Atletico Madrid manager said.
Meanwhile, Clarence Seedorf remains optimistic about his side’s chances of progressing to the next round and pulling off a win in Spain.
“I think everybody saw what my players did tonight, and I am proud of what they did, really. In the last 20 minutes we were tired and we were also a bit unlucky with their goal, I have to say. Balotelli is improving match by match but it takes time for strikers to adapt to each other. They have not played many games together. It will be tough in the return leg, I know, but I also remember I have had some fun in that stadium.
“We really respect Atlético, but we can do it. The fans were great tonight, I have heard my players and it seems they believe we can go through. I believe we can do it too. My players are trying to improve, they are working hard, and I see the team spirit growing. My past experience tells me that team spirit can make you go far in the competition. This is the starting point for everything. I hope we can beat them in the return leg also because we are the last Italian team still in the competition.” – The AC Milan manager said.