Two from Diego Costa help Atlético Madrid cruise past Milan in Champions League, 4-1 (5-1, agg.)

Leave a comment

Atlético Madrid is into the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, staving off an early hint at drama from visiting AC Milan to post a 4-1 victory. The result gives Diego Simeone’s team a 5-1 aggregate win over the seven-time champions, with goals from Diego Costa (two), Arda Turan, and Raúl Garcia delivering the win at the Vicente Calderón.

Costa’s first goal came in spectacular fashion in the third minute when, at full stretch, the Spanish international redirected Koke’s cross home at Christian Abbiati’s far post. The lead proved short-lived as Kaká headed home from close range after a Andrea Poli cross to make it 1-1.

Before halftime, however, Turan’s deflected volley beat a helpless Abbiati to restore Atlético’s two-goal edge, with a header from Garcia mid-way through the second period eliminating all of Milan’s lingering hopes. Demoralized, Milan saw Costa score his seventh goal of the competition in the 85th minute, completing its disappoint night in Madrid.

The victory sends the Colchoneros into the final eight for the first time in 17 years, while Milan exit the competition at the first knockout round for the second consecutive tournament. Ensuring no Italian team will be in the final eight, Milan’s early exist adds to frustrations incurred by a 11th place standing in Serie A.

The Rossoneri entered the day with a 1-0 deficit after Costa’s 83rd minute winner three weeks ago in Milan gave Atleti a 1-0 lead. Costa doubled that lead three minutes into the second leg when Koke, cutting in from the right, vaulted a ball toward Abbiati’s far post. Reaching with his left leg shoulder-high from five yards out, the Atlético striker put his teammate’s pass into the back of the Milan goal before landing flat on his tailbone. Up two, Atlético appeared destined for an easy night.

That appearance evaporated just before the 30 minute-mark when a ball put toward the byline on the right allowed Poli to put an uncontested ball toward Thibault Courtois’ far post. The gigantic Belgian was unable to traverse the goalmouth in time to stop Kaká’s easy header, with right back Juanfran having lost track of an attacker who’s up to 30 Champions League goals.

Milan’s control of possession through the game’s next 10 minutes went for naught when a long ball chested down for Turan gave the Turkish international a chance from the top of the arc. Volleying a ball after a quick thigh trap, the Atlético midfielder put his shot off Daniele Bonera and past Abbiati, with the deflection preventing the Milan keeper from denying the hosts a 2-1 halftime lead.

When Milan couldn’t pull the goal back early in the second, the match adopted a feeling of inevitability – as if Atlético had already qualified for the quarterfinals. When Garcia headed his team’s fourth goal home in the 70th minute, all doubt left the Calderón. A goal starved AC Milan would need three to move past their favored hosts, a hope rendered mute when Costa blasted his seventh goal of the competition in from the right edge of the six-yard box.

That favorite’s status, in doubt as Atlético struggled ahead of the first leg, proved well-earned at the end of 180 minutes, with a Milan team that’s limped through its Serie A campaign proving no more capable in Europe. Atlético, conversely, has reclaimed the form that carried them through January – quality that made them dark horses in this competition.

Though potential quarterfinal opponents will prefer the Atleti to Bayern Munich or Real Madrid, Atlético will be dangerous come the quarterfinals.

Mendy a doubt for start of Man City’s Premier League season

Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Leave a comment

High-flying left back Benjamin Mendy‘s Manchester City takeoff has been delayed by a thigh injury.

Pep Guardiola revealed Thursday that Mendy is doubtful for City’s Aug. 12 Premier League opener at Brighton and Hove Albion despite passing a medical to push through a $68 million move from Monaco.

Saying Mendy is “a little bit injured,” Guardiola said to expect an absence of two to three weeks.

[ MORE: LAFC hires Bob Bradley ]

The depth chart behind Mendy is incomplete, though City has added two right backs this offseason in Kyle Walker and Danilo.

The latter would be the front-runner to start in Mendy’s place, as he did in a 3-5-2 as Man City beat Real Madrid 4-1 on Wednesday.

Man City follows its opener at Brighton with a visit from Everton and a trip to Bournemouth.

Roma gives new 4-year deal to Premier League target Nainggolan

Rick Osentoski/AP Images for International Champions Cup
Leave a comment

Hard-nosed midfielder Rajda Nainggolan has been linked to Manchester United and Chelsea for some time, but Thursday linked up long-term with his present club.

Nainggolan, 29, signed a new deal with AS Roma through the 2020-21 season, putting the Belgian box-to-box mid at the heart of i Lupi‘s plans to chase down Juventus.

[ MORE: Chatting with De Rossi ]

Nainggolan has been in the last two Serie A Best XIs.

The 29-times capped Belgian has six goals for his national team, and has 255 Serie A appearances between Cagliari and Roma. Nainggolan has 31 goals and 18 assists in those matches, scooping 62 yellows and two send-offs but never being handed straight red.

While it’s a perceived blow for his Premier League suitors, it’s a welcome retention for Roma. He’s arguably the reason Roma was ready to part with Michael Bradley in 2014, and you can see why: He plays right up to the line but knows right where it lies.

Too many fans: Udinese vs. Hannover friendly called off

Getty Images
Leave a comment

ST. VEIT, Austria (AP) Local authorities in southern Austria have called off Sunday’s friendly match between Udinese and Hannover as the estimated number of spectators exceeds the capacity of the stadium.

The city of St. Veit says about 4,000 fans, including 280 potential football hooligans, were expected for the game at the ground of local amateur club FC Alpe Adria, which has a capacity of 2,430.

St. Veit mayor Gerhard Mock says “it’s a shame … but security comes first.”

It’s not immediately clear whether the match between the Italian and German top-flight teams can be moved to a larger venue. Both Udinese and Hannover are having their preseason training camps in the province of Carinthia.

LIVE – Everton kick off Europa League campaign

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wayne Rooney will play his first competitive game for Everton in 13 years.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores

That storyline will dominate Everton’s return to Europe as they kick off their 2017-18 UEFA Europa League campaign in front of a packed house at Goodison Park on Thursday.

The Toffees welcome Slovakian side MFK Ruzomberok for the first leg of the third qualifying round as they aim to make it back to the group stage for the first time since 2014-15.

Click on the link above to follow not only Everton’s game but all of the Europa League qualifiers going on across Europe this afternoon with the likes of AC Milan, Fenerbache, PSV, Marseille and Athletic Bilbao all in action.

If Ronald Koeman‘s side successfully navigate their way past Ruzomberok then they will be in the play-off round which is the final hurdle before the group stage.