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Rediff.com  » Sports » Europa League: Costa haunts Arsenal again to send Atletico into final

Europa League: Costa haunts Arsenal again to send Atletico into final

Last updated on: May 04, 2018 09:37 IST

Diego Costa

IMAGE: Diego Costa of Atletico Madrid holds off Shkodran Mustafi of Arsenal during the UEFA Europa League semi-final. Photograph: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa haunted Arsenal again by firing his side to a 1-0 win in Thursday's Europa League semi-final second leg to send the Spaniards into the final and deny Arsene Wenger a dream end to his long reign as Arsenal coach.

Atletico won the tie 2-1 on aggregate and will meet Olympique de Marseille in the final in Lyon on May 16.

 

Costa proved a handful for Arsenal when he played for Chelsea and the Spain striker broke the deadlock in a tight, tense game at the Wanda Metropolitano, striking in first-half stoppage-time after being played in by Antoine Griezmann.

"We knew that we would have an extra man on our side as we were playing at home with our supporters," Costa said. "You can feel it on the pitch, it gives you a real boost."

"It was very important to get there because Atletico are a great club and need to play in finals. I always get excited playing against Arsenal, they really motivated me a lot when I played in England."

Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny was carried off on a stretcher early in the first half with a suspected torn Achilles tendon which threatens to rule the France international out of the World Cup.

Without Koscielny, Arsenal struggled to cope with Costa's power and the flair of his attacking partner Griezmann, who scored a late equaliser in the 1-1 first-leg draw after Atletico had played most of the game with 10 men following Sime Vrsjalko's red card.

Vrsjalko's suspension forced midfielder Thomas Partey to deputise at right back but he did a superb job keeping Arsenal at bay.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone was banned following his foul-mouthed rant at the Emirates Stadium but his fellow Argentine assistant German 'Mono' Burgos made up for his absence by whipping up the home side's famously passionate fans from the touchline.

Wenger's team were blunt in attack against a typically resilient Atletico defence and they only had one shot on target, a distance strike from Granit Xhaka which was not enough to beat goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

Atletico did not create many chances but they always looked in control and kept a remarkable 12th consecutive clean sheet in all competitions at their Wanda Metropolitano stadium to reach a fifth European final since 2010.

Arsenal, meanwhile, were left to reflect on how they failed to capitalise on their man advantage in the first leg and Wenger will leave the club he has been at for 22 years without winning a European trophy, having lost the finals of the 2000 UEFA Cup and 2006 Champions League.

The English side were also denied a route into next season’s Champions League, which means they have failed to qualify for Europe’s top competition two years in a row after previously playing in it for 19 successive seasons.

Rolando the late hero as Marseille knock out Salzburg

Europa

IMAGE: Marseille's Rolando celebrates scoring. Photograph: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

Veteran defender Rolando scored deep into extra time to send Olympique de Marseille through to the Europa League final 3-2 on aggregate after a spirited Salzburg side won the semi-final second leg 2-1.

Amadou Haidara's strike and a Bouna Sarr own goal took Salzburg to the brink of a remarkable comeback having lost the first leg 2-0 but substitute Rolando had the final say and Marseille will meet Atletico Madrid in the final in the French city of Lyon.

Salzburg reached the last four by overturning a two-goal deficit against Lazio and another successful fightback looked on when the Austrian champions took the lead through a brilliant solo strike by Haidara who glided past three players before toe-poking the ball in after 53 minutes.

The goal sparked Marco Rose's side into life and they got their second little more than 10 minutes later. Haidara's cross found its way to Xaver Schlager whose shot was going off target until it hit the toe of Marseille defender Sarr and went in.

With the tie level on aggregate, the match went to extra-time and neither side could find an opening, although Salzburg were the more dominant side.

But with four minutes left a Dimitri Payet corner found Portuguese defender Rolando whose low strike beat goalkeeper Alexander Walke and Salzburg had Haidara sent off for receiving a second booking as they chased another goal in vain.

"We are specialists in making things complicated but we have shown that mentally, we were strong," Payet said. "It's even more beautiful to qualify like that.

"We knew we needed a goal and we were able to score at any time. It happened late but it happened."

The set-piece that led to the winning goal was contentious as Salzburg thought the ball had come off a Marseille player last.

Salzburg manager Marco Rose and some of his players argued with the officials following the final whistle.

"I'm sorry for the guys who played their great Europa League season, then we were whistled away by the referee, what am I supposed to do? That's unbelievable," Rose said.

"My boys are great," he added. "They have great characters, we also had the opportunity to win but Marseille is in the final, we have to watch. We are very disappointed."

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