Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa was the difference today in a hard fought Champions League match at the San Siro today against AC Milan. Costa’s 83rd minute header came against the run of play and will be crucial in deciding the tie as it gives his club a one goal advantage going in to the second leg. Milan were the stronger side for much of the match but could not make a series of chances count as they were denied by Chelsea FC loanee keeper Thibaut Courtois on two occasions. The big Belgian getting the slightest of touches to push Kaka’s long-range effort on to crossbar and making a spectacular save to direct Andrea Poli’s header on to the post. Mario Balotelli also had a go at Courtois’ goal but his curling shot was just wide of Atletico’s post.
The second half was a much tighter affair but both Kaka and Adel Taraabt had their chances but just could not seal the deal and find the back of the net. It seemed that Atletico Madrid was content with ending the match and heading home with a goalless draw but in the last quarter of an hour the momentum had begun to shift. Balotelli went down with a shoulder injury and had to be subbed off in the 78th minute after a collision. It was only five minutes later that Atletico had their breakthrough. A poor headed clearance by Ignazio Abate sent Gabi’s corner looping high in the air towards the back post where Costa rose above the fray and headed powerfully past keeper Christian Abbiati.
Milan are by no means out of this tie as they showed today that they have serious attacking verve when Kaka is on form. The injury to Balotelli is a concern but if he is fit for the second leg, Milan certainly have a fighting chance. This was a very chippy affair and tempers flared so there is sure to be a fair amount of drama when the sides meet again in Madrid.
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