Diego Costa’s breakout season continued to be the catalyst to Atletico Madrid’s success as it beat AC Milan 4-1 to reach the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday for the first time since 1997.
Diego Costa added two more goals to his season tally, jumping high to stab home at the far post following a Milan turnover just three minutes into a raucous contest at the capacity Vicente Calderon Stadium.
Kaka gave Milan some hope by canceling out the opener in the 27th only to rue a glaring miss moments before Arda Turan volleyed over Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati to put Atletico back in front.
With Milan striker Mario Balotelli ineffective, Atletico choked its opponent with constant pressure after the restart and slowly began to pull away with Raul Garcia heading home before Diego Costa completed the 5-1 aggregate win with his 29th goal of the season.
Milan’s exit left Europe’s top-tier tournament without an Italian team in the last eight.
Elsewhere, Bayern Munich eliminated Arsenal 3-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw at home.
Atletico’s near 50,000 fans provided the Spanish club with extra pep throughout, but especially at the start when the hosts dominated a Milan team that seemed a step behind.
“I’m happy because this is a group of men who interpret football in an extraordinary way,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “They have incredible passion for our play. We played the game we needed to, especially at the start.”
Michael Essien was particularly exposed by Atletico’s speed, and his turnover led Koke to set up Diego Costa for the acrobatic opener.
Milan began to dominate possession and bounced back into the contest.