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 game on Wednesday after the hosts were twice denied by the woodwork in the first half.
Costa scored at the far post after the Milan defence failed to clear a corner as the Spaniards won a fast, furious and often scrappy and bad-tempered match.
Milan had created the better chances and were frustrated as Kaka had a delightful curling shot tipped on to the crossbar by Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois who also deflected Andrea Poli’s header on to the post in a dramatic first-half spell.
“It was a very difficult match against a great rival but we knew how to soak up the pressure and at the key moment we went after the win,” Costa told Spain’s Canal Plus.
“We have a solid advantage and now it’s about going back to the Calderon and maintaining it.
“It’s not over yet but we know it’s a good result tonight.
“We have confidence in ourselves. Some people have been doubting us recently but we have no doubts. We are a team and we are very strong.”
Clarence Seedorf, who won the Champions League four times as a player with three different clubs, made his coaching debut in the competition in charge of Milan.
Seven-times champions Milan made a nervous start but nearly went ahead thanks to the brilliance of Kaka in the 15th minute.
Adel Taarabt slipped the ball to Kaka on the edge of the penalty area and the Brazilian produced a delightful first-time shot with his left foot which Courtois just managed to tip on to t he 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 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 he sidefooted his shot wide from the edge of the penalty 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.
Otherwise, the second half was a scrappy affair in which Milan were repeatedly frustrated by Atletico’s tactical fouling in midfield.
They always looked vulnerable and it was no surprise when Costa scored after Ignazio Abate at the near post headed the ball straight up into the air.