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Atletico Madrid 1-0 Arsenal: Costa downs Gunners again, Atleti into Europa League final

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Diego Costa is yet again the scourge of Arsenal, even after having departed the Premier League.

The former Chelsea man bagged the game’s only goal as Atletico Madrid beat Arsenal 1-0 at the Estadio Metropolitano to send the Spanish side through to the Europa League final in Lyon on a 2-1 aggregate score. On the other end, the vaunted Atletico Madrid defense completely stumped Arsenal, leaving them with little to show for their 90 minutes of running in Spain.

Atletico had the best early chance six minutes in as Diego Costa shrugged off Nacho Monreal and shot from a tight angle, but David Ospina got down low to make the save. The Gunners were forced to make a chance moments later as captain Laurent Koscielny went down in a heap with a non-contact injury, holding his ankle and screaming in pain. He was stretchered off and replaced by Calum Chambers, and it was eventually confirmed that he suffered a torn Achilles.

The injury sucked much of the early life out of the game, and it devolved into a physical midfield battle. The rest of the first half was cagey, with Atletico understanding that they only needed to keep the scoreline clean to advance. Meanwhile, the Gunners held nearly 60% of the first-half possession, but produced precious little in front of the Atletico net. Alexandre Lacazette had a half-chance for Arsenal after 25 minutes, but couldn’t pull the trigger.

Down the other end, Atletico had a few small chances. Antoine Griezmann missed by inches on what would have been a stunning strike seven minutes before the half-time whistle. Then, just moments before the half-time whistle, the game snagged its first moment of glory. Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak launched the ball deep down the field, and after a few ping-pong touches, Diego Costa burst forward past Hector Bellerin and grabbed a breakaway opportunity, finishing past Ospina to put Atletico 1-0 up in first-half added time.

Things opened up in the second half with Arsenal still needing a goal, now to force extra time. Their best chances of the second half came on the hour mark as a cross from Mesut Ozil was just out of reach of a stretching Lacazette. Then moments later Granit Xhaka forced a fantastic save by Oblak on a low shot towards the bottom-right corner. Substitute Henrikh Mkhitaryan volleyed towards the net two minutes after coming on but ripped it just inches over the bar.

Costa continued to prove dangerous through the final portion of the game, finding himself on the end of a number of late chances to put the game away. As the game waned, the Gunners had less and less to offer and appeared to be both exhausted and out of ideas. It was all Atletico in the final few minutes, with Fernando Torres coming close and forcing an Ospina save.

Europa League, LIVE: Arsenal, Marseille host first legs

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Diego Costa brings a solid career record against Arsenal back to London in a bid to ruin Arsene Wenger‘s farewell season at the Emirates Stadium.

[ FOLLOW: Arsenal vs. Atleti ]

The now-Atletico Madrid forward returns to England on Thursday as his La Liga outfit aims to stop Arsenal from reaching next month’s Europa League Final in Lyon.

[ FOLLOW: Marseille vs. Red Bull Salzburg ]

That’s a 3:05 p.m. ET kickoff, the same as Marseille’s date with Red Bull Salzburg in France.

ARSENAL-ATLETICO MADRID LINEUPS

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ramsey, Welbeck, Ozil, Lacazette. Subs: Cech, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Chambers, Kolasinac, Iwobi, Nketiah.

Atleti: Oblak, Lucas, Godin, Gimenez, Vrsaljko, Saul, Thomas, Koke, Correa, Griezmann, Gameiro. Subs: Werner, Savic, Gabi, Vitolo, Olabe, Torres, Costa.

Messi records 600th career goal as free kick beats Atleti (video)

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Lionel Messi scored his 600th career goal, which is nice, and pushed Barcelona even closer to its 25th La Liga crown in a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou on Sunday.

The win gives Barca an eight-point lead on second place Atleti with 11 matches to play. Barca has 69 points, 15 better than Real Madrid.

Les Blaugranas have played 35 matches without a loss.

[ MORE: Serie A mourns Astori ]

Barcelona lived in Atleti’s half to start the match, but couldn’t quite challenge Jan Oblak.

Andres Iniesta left the match after 35 minutes with what appeared to be a hamstring strain, suffered in the 22nd minute.

It was Messi who put Barca in front with a 26th minute strike, and it was classy. A swooping free kick from well beyond the 18 defied the paw of a flying Oblak to make it 1-0.

Atleti had a late goal ruled off when Diego Costa was offside before nodding an initial shot on goal that was deposited on the rebound.

Luis Suarez just missed a lofted offering in the first minute of stoppage time.

Messi saw yellow moments later in a challenge with Filipe Luis.

La Liga: Costa scores, sent off (video); Atleti still chasing Barca

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Diego Costa was at his best – and worst – on Saturday when the Atletico Madrid striker was sent off after celebrating a goal that helped to beat Getafe 2-0 in his second match back at the club.

Costa already had one booking for elbowing a Getafe player when he tapped in Atletico’s second goal in the 68th minute. But instead of embracing his teammates, he ran around the net and to the edge of the stands where he was hugged by fans, earning him a second booking.

Far from reproaching the 29-year-old Costa, Atletico coach Diego Simeone praised the player he hopes can lead the team to the same heights they reached in 2013 and 2014, when they won the Copa del Rey followed by the Spanish league title.

“Costa gives us intensity and power, and he inspires fear. You can feel it and see it,” Simeone said. “We have known him for a long time. We know how he plays and that he always pushes the limits. His courage and passion to fight for every ball is transmitted in each play.”

Second-place Atletico is within six points of Liga leader Barcelona, which hosts Levante on Sunday.

Despite not having played a competitive match since June, Costa has shown no rust from his long layoff while waiting for Atletico’s yearlong ban on new players to expire at the start of January.

The goal was Costa’s second in as many appearances since making his return to Atletico from Chelsea. He scored as a substitute on Wednesday in a 4-0 victory at Lleida in the Copa del Rey’s round of 16.

Costa started Saturday’s match by curling a shot onto the top of the net and setting up Antoine Griezmann before the France forward assisted Angel Correa for the hosts’ opener in the 18th.

Besides providing added punch to Atletico’s attack, Costa also showed the same knack for rattling rivals with his aggressive attitude and physical play.

The Brazilian-born Spain striker had to be separated from Getafe’s Juan Cala when the two exchanged words after the halftime whistle, and he was booked for elbowing Dakonam Djene when they contested a ball in the 62nd.

Then came Costa’s goal, a cool side-footed shot to slot Sime Vrsaljko’s low cross just into the post, followed by his excessive celebration.

“(Costa) is contagious, and he showed all that he is, scoring a goal and getting sent off,” Atletico midfielder Gabi Fernandez said. “Costa doesn’t have to adapt to us, he came ready to play. That’s why we wanted him.”

The derby at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium was a bad-tempered match that featured 10 total bookings.

Costa’s sending-off means he will miss next round’s trip to Eibar.

Costa helped Chelsea win the English Premier league title last season before he fell out of favor with coach Antonio Conte.

Coach Marcelino Garcia Toral returned to Valencia’s sideline to oversee its first win in three rounds, a 2-1 comeback at home over Girona.

Valencia remained in third place, two points behind Atletico and six ahead of Real Madrid, which has two games in hand.

Garcia Toral missed Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Las Palmas in the Copa del Rey while he recovered from a car accident reportedly caused when his car hit a wild boar on Dec. 23.

The Valencia manager wore a neck brace under his coat for Saturday’s match, when Dani Parejo converted a penalty after Girona’s Ramalho scored an own-goal to cancel out the opener by Cristian “Portu” Portugues.

Forward Luciano Vietto debuted for Atletico as a late substitute after arriving on loan from Atletico.

Real Betis won a wild Seville derby by rolling to a 5-3 victory at Sevilla, ruining the home debut of Italian coach Vincenzo Montella.

Betis never trailed, although Sevilla leveled at 2-2 by halftime. But Riza Durmisi, Sergio Leon and Cristian Tello scored in the second half to deal Sevilla its first home loss in league play since Nov. 2016.

Police arrested 23 people for participating in a fight between fans of Sevilla and Real Betis hours before the match. Authorities said that the rival fans had arranged the meeting in order to fight.

Atletico’s Diego Costa sent off after scoring in La Liga debut

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Diego Costa has scored in back-to-back matches since returning to Atletico Madrid, but his celebrations sent him to the showers early on Saturday.

The Spanish striker scored in the 68th minute against Getafe today to give Atleti a 2-0 advantage, however, the former Chelsea player’s actions after the goal earned him a second yellow card and an early exit from the match.

[ MORE: Coutinho set to join Barcelona for whopping $192 million fee ]

Costa, who rejoined Atletico in January after spending three seasons with Chelsea, left Atleti to fend with 10 men for the final 20 minutes-plus on Saturday, however, the 2-0 scoreline held for the home side and Diego Simeone’s men sit within six points of league leaders Barcelona.

Atleti will return to La Liga action next weekend with a visit to Eibar, however Simeone and Co. will take the pitch on Tuesday in their Copa del Rey second leg against Lleida.