Atlético Madrid left no doubt they deserved a spot in the Champions League quarterfinals, hammering AC Milan 4-1 on Tuesday to advance to the next round on a 5-1 aggregate score. It's the first time in 17 years that Atlético have advanced to the quarters of the European Cup/Champions League and their first knockout stage win in the competition since November 1977 against Nantes.
Holding a 1-0 lead after the first leg in Milan, Atlético Madrid knew they would be best served by getting on the board quickly and putting AC Milan under more pressure. Diego Costa did just that in the 3rd minute, executing a spectacular flying dragon kick finish to direct the ball past Christian Abbiati and give the home side an early 1-0 lead. Gabi's cross from the left edge of the box lifted the ball over the Milan defense to set up the chance.
Milan responded in the 27th minute, however, thanks to Kaká. Milan worked the ball out wide to the right and took advantage of Atléti's defenders not closing down quickly enough. Andrea Poli's cross to the far post found Kaká in space and he put a header off Juanfran's foot and past Thibaut Courtois to tie the game, 1-1, on the day.
With Milan full of confidence, Atléti were back on their heels and nearly conceded an equalizer in 36th minute when Kaká just missed on a header, sending it over the crossbar.
Four minutes later Atléti reclaimed the lead, 2-1, when Costa chested down a long ball forward to Arda Turan, who settled the ball and fired on frame. The ball took a wicked deflection off Adil Rami and looped over Abbiati, who was helpless to stop the goal.
Gabi came ever so close early in the second half to extending the lead yet again, but his shot hit off the post, keeping Milan's slim hopes alive.
With 20 minutes to play Atléti dashed those hopes when Raúl García -- who will miss the first leg of the next round after earning a yellow card suspension earlier in the match -- got up and over his marker in the Milan box and headed a Koke long ball past Abbiati, increasing Atléti's lead to 3-1.
Costa netted his second goal of the match in the 83rd minute, hitting a shot from a tough angle off the far post and over the line.
Atlético Madrid: Thibaut Courtois, Juanfran, João Miranda, Diego Godín, Filipe Luis, Mario Suárez, Gabi. Koke (Diego 82'), Raúl García (Sosa 71'), Arda Turan (Rodriguez 78'), Diego Costa
Goals: Costa (3', 83'), Turan (40'), Sosa (70')
AC Milan: Christian Abbiati, Urby Emanuelson, Daniele Bonera, Rami, Ignazio Abate, Nigel de Jong (Muntari 78'), Michael Essien (Pazzini 69'), Kaká, Andrea Poli, Adel Tarrabt (Robinho 46'), Mario Balotelli
Goals: (Kaká 27')