Diego Costa scored twice as Atletico Madrid sealed a spot in the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time in 17 years with an impressive 4-1 victory over AC Milan at the Vicente Calderon.
Costa, whose late header earned Atletico a 1-0 first-leg win at San Siro, acrobatically put the Spanish side ahead with the first chance of Tuesday’s last-16 second leg but former Real Madrid star Kaka headed Milan level.
Arda Turan’s deflected strike made it 2-1 to Atletico before the break, and then second-half goals from Raul Garcia and Costa sealed a deserved 5-1 aggregate victory for the Spanish side.
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Milan were always up against it even before kick-off, with only two teams in the history of the Champions League ever having recovered from losing at home in the first leg to go and win the tie.
And if that was not worrying enough for the Rossoneri, Atletico were one of only two sides still unbeaten in this season’s competition – the other being Real Madrid – while the Rojiblancos had won 15 of their last 16 home games in Europe.
History therefore hugely favoured Atletico, and less than three minutes into the contest the present was looking pretty good for Diego Simeone’s side as well with Costa continuing his magnificent season with a superb finish to put the hosts ahead.
Koke floated in a cross from the right edge of the area and Costa, having peeled away from Milan centre-back Adil Rami, flung himself at the ball and managed to volley it past Christian Abbiati at full stretch.
The momentum was back with the Spanish side now and Garcia almost made it 3-1 with a spectacular overhead kick just before the break, the ball going inches wide with Abbiati rooted to the spot.
Atletico were back on the attack after the interval with recent Spain debutant Costa and Gabi going close before Milan substitute Robinho – another Real Madrid old boy – drew a parry out of Thibaut Courtois with a cross-shot.
Milan were pushing but they could not find a breakthrough before Atletico all but settled the tie in the 71st minute when Garcia climbed above two visiting defenders to head home Gabi’s free-kick.
There was no way back for Clarence Seedorf’s men after that, although Robinho did hit the crossbar soon after, and Atletico wrapped up a convincing win when Costa drilled a shot in off the far post in the 85th minute.
"I’m happy because this is a group of men who interpret football in an extraordinary way," said Diego Simeone after the match. "They have incredible passion for our play. We played the game we needed to, especially at the start."