Tonight, Atletico Madrid beat visiting AC Milan at the Vicente Calderon Stadium by a deceiving 4-1 score. The deception was that the game was completely lopsided, it was not. Kaka, Robinho, and Mario Balotelli hit woodwork, forced formidable saves from an in form Thibaut Courtois, and almost overcame a homer referee to make a game out of a match that was not decided until the third Atletico score at the 71st minute (http://bit.ly/1cS7RUD).
Diego Costa's acrobatic opening score at the 3rd minute, completely losing his marker, Adil Rami, at the far post, on Koke's brilliant cross, made for a nightmarish start for Milan. But 24 minutes later a Kaka header had leveled the score if not control of the game. "I knew that Milan could complicate things," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said at the post game press conference. "We started better than them in the first half and it seemed we would go on and control the game after the first goal, but they got back into it."
Atletico played one of its best games of the year and were in the driver's seat with possession and inventive play but where being shut down by some last gasp Milan defending. The visitors were also attacking and making the hosts defend well to keep the aggregate score on their terms. Then, Arda Turan's 40th minute ricochet off the ever misplaced Rami left Christian Abbiati without a chance to react. Atletico 2, Milan 1. But the match did not feel done, Milan always looked dangerous.
In the second half, Milan used substitute Robinho to tremendous advantage as he had one of his best games of the year forcing Courtois into a one handed diving save and hitting the woodwork moments later. Kaka, still playing great football and having a fantastic year, had several great plays go begging and a couple of shots that barely missed the target. But the evenhanded game, the back-and-forth plays that made for great entertainment were simply too even for a team needing two scores. Ultimately Milan ran out of gas.
At the 71st minute, Raul Garcia's header at the far post, off a Gabi free kick, settled the match and moved Atletico onto the Champions League quarterfinals. But the game was not over. Costa, still smarting from a poor showing in a Spanish National Team role needed to show the national coach, Vicente del Bosque, why this striker is still a good bet for the Red Fury. Scoring the fourth and final goal on a brilliant angled shot, right to left and off the far post from inside the box, leaving Abbiati helpless again, Costa led his team emphatically with his brace and seventh goal in the 2014 Champions League.
Barcelona host Manchester City tomorrow with a 2-0 Catalan advantage, while Real Madrid host Schalke on the 18th with a 6-1 Merengues advantage. It would be fair to say, that aside from Germany's Bayern Munich and France's PSG, the three Spanish teams seem the cream of the competition so far.