Club Atlético de Madrid will contest a UEFA Champions League quarter-final for the first time in 17 years after Diego Simeone's side eased past AC Milan with a dominant second-leg display.
Diego Costa's late first-leg header had put the Rojiblancos in a strong position in the round of 16 tie and the Spain forward was quick off the mark in the return to put his team ahead on the night. Kaká's equaliser in a frenetic first period gave the visitors hope, but Arda Turan's deflected effort restored the hosts' cushion and second-half goals from Raúl García and Costa completed an emphatic victory.
In the build-up, both coaches had hinted at strategies that belied the game's opening, Clarence Seedorf pointing to the importance of scoring and Simeone highlighting control and caution. As early as the third minute, a loss of control from Milan's Michael Essien allowed Gabi to snap up possession and feed Koke, whose raking centre was expertly diverted in by the flying Costa.
Looking to add to an impressive 15 wins in their last 16 European home matches, Atlético persisted in attack, Koke again the provider and Diego Godín poking narrowly wide. Jolted into life, Milan began to mount a challenge that led to their 27th-minute leveller, Kaká – on target here with Real Madrid CF in 2009 – dipping to head in Andrea Poli's right-wing cross with the help of Juanfran's deflection.
The game had suddenly changed direction and with the home fans' nervousness palpable, the seven-time winners came again, Kaká nodding narrowly over. Simeone roared his disapproval and his players responded, regaining the lead with a touch of fortune when Arda's shot from García's chested pass clipped Adil Rami and wrong-footed goalkeeper Christian Abbiati. Their nerves settled, García's overhead kick flashed just wide as Atlético chased more goals.
As one of only two sides still unbeaten in the competition this term – Madrid being the other – Atlético took charge after the break, Costa rifling wide before Gabi struck the outside of a post. With Milan tiring, the decisive blow came 19 minutes from time, García rising above Nigel de Jong and Rami to head Gabi's free-kick past the despairing Abbiati.
Appropriately, Costa would have the final word, picking up possession from substitute José Sosa to fire in low off the upright. A member of the last Atlético team to reach the quarter-finals, losing to AFC Ajax in 1997, Simeone will soon have his chance to make amends.
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