Diego Costa headed a late goal to give Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win at AC Milan in their Champions League last-16 first-leg match on Wednesday, after the hosts were denied by the woodwork twice in the first half.
Costa scored at the far post after the Milan defense failed to clear a corner to hand the Spanish side victory in a fast, furious — and often scrappy and bad-tempered — match.
Milan created the better chances and were frustrated as Kaka had a delightful curling shot tipped onto the crossbar by Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who also deflected Andrea Poli’s header on to the post in a dramatic first half.
The loss soured the Champions League coaching debut of Milan boss Clarence Seedorf, who won the competition four times as a player with three different clubs.
Seven-time champions Milan made a nervous start, but nearly went ahead thanks to Kaka’s brilliance in the 15th minute.
Adel Taarabt slipped the ball to the Brazilian on the edge of the penalty area and he produced a delightful first-time shot with his left foot that Courtois just managed to tip onto the crossbar.
Milan were foiled again three minutes later when Taarabt curled a cross over from the right and Andrea Poli’s downward header was tipped on to the foot of the post by the Belgian goalkeeper.
Former FIFA World Player of the Year Kaka curled another shot just over the top with his right foot, this time from Mario Balotelli’s clever backheel.
Balotelli also had a chance after a dreadful Gabi clearance, but sidefooted his shot wide from the edge of the area.
Kaka had another good opening just before the hour when he collected Abate’s past, slipped past two defenders and shot just wide of the far post.
The second half was a scrappy affair in which Milan were repeatedly frustrated by Atletico’s tactical fouling in midfield.
The struggling Serie A side looked vulnerable throughout the game and it was no surprise when Costa scored.