Diego Costa's late header stole a 1-0 victory for Atletico Madrid against AC Milan at the San Siro, giving the Spanish side the advantage heading into the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
The powerful striker directed a looping ball into the roof of the net on 82 minutes, capitalising on loose defending at Milan's back post to grab a vital away goal for Diego Simeone's high-flying outfit.
Milan were left to rue a host of missed chances and the contribution of Atleti goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who once again displayed his world-class abilities to keep Clarence Seedorf's team at bay.
Milan started brightly and on 14 minutes came within inches of an early lead. Kaka cut inside, drove a rising shot with his left foot and drew a fine save from Courtois, whose touch pushed the ball onto the crossbar.
Kaka threatened again soon after, and again, Atleti relied on Courtois to deny him. This time, Kaka met a right-wing cross with an angled header, forcing a diving save to the goalkeeper's right.
Milan were having the better of things, and chances continued to flow to Kaka. The Brazilian blazed over on the half-hour mark and, once again, the visitors survived.
Mario Balotelli then curled a shot just wide after Atletico Madrid failed to clear a corner. That would prove Milan's last chance of the 45 and halftime came without the Italian side having managed a breakthrough.
FT Milan 0-1 Atletico. Fine away performance by Atleti, who wobbled bit in 1st half, but turned screw in 2nd. Godin, Costa, Koke all super.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) February 19, 2014
Early in the second half, Costa went for the spectacular, but his overhead-kick effort was a long way off target.
Kaka continued to prove Milan's biggest threat, rolling back the years to give one of his best Champions League performances in recent memory. He shot over the bar just shy of the hour mark.
Raul Garcia then wasted a chance for Atleti, shooting over at the culmination of a fluid team move.
The defining moment of the match followed soon after. Milan failed to clear a corner and Costa pounced at the far post to propel a powerful header home and send the home fans into silence.
|Mattie De Sciglio||6.2|
|Nigel De Jong||6.7|
Milan showed enough to suggest they can mount a challenge in Madrid, but they may well live to regret their missed chances and the lax defending that allowed Costa to win the first leg late.
The two teams will reconvene for the second leg of the tie in Madrid on March 11, with Milan needing victory to stand any chance of progressing to the quarter-finals of the Champions League (a 1-0 victory would take the tie to extra-time).
It's worth noting Milan have only won once in their last five European away games. Atleti won all three of their home games in the group stage, conceding just once.
In the meantime, Atleti continue their Liga quest on the road against Osasuna at the weekend, while Milan travel to Sampdoria and face the daunting task of hosting Juventus the weekend after that.