Familiar foe Diego Costa crushed Arsène Wenger’s dream conclusion as Arsenal manager on Thursday night by scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 triumph to help Atletico Madrid knock the Gunners out of the UEFA Europa League Semi-Finals 2-1 on aggregate.
If Wenger’s side were able to do something that has only happened four times at the Wanda Metropolitano in La Liga this season, score a goal, they would’ve had a great chance of giving the iconic French boss the perfect send-off by aiming to win a first European trophy in his home country.
Diego Simeone was out to stop that from happening though, and watched his team pull off yet another defensive masterclass as he paced to the left and right of a reserved area in the stand after his sending off in the first leg, despite there being five seats available to him.
Former Chelsea striker Costa was causing problems for the Arsenal defence from the start, first bullying Laurent Koscielny into a 50-50 situation that really shouldn’t have been before dispossessing Nacho Monreal and firing a fierce effort wide.
There were sad scenes moments later as the Gunners’ captain Koscielny went down in agonising pain off the ball, later confirmed to be a result of a torn Achilles meaning he’ll miss the 2018 Russia World Cup this summer.
Atletico broke the deadlock at the most painful time for their North London opponents, in first-half injury time, and it was the oh-so familiar case of Arsenal carelessly losing possession and then being caught napping.
Antoine Griezmann, the star of the show on the night, threaded a pass through to Costa who got in behind Hector Bellerin, out of position, before entering the area and making no mistake directing a shot over David Ospina, despite Bellerin’s efforts to unbalance him.
It was a typical Atletico Madrid half – their opponents dictating the game but the Spanish giants obtaining the quality to make a difference.
Just minutes into the second period, Arsenal’s best chance of the match arose for Aaron Ramsay after Jack Wilshere’s mis-hit shot trickled its way through to the Welshman one-on-one, but he could sort his feet out and the ball ultimately hit his thigh and the opportunity was gone.
Granit Xhaka was next to test the seemingly-unstoppable Jan Oblak with a powerful effort from distance, but the excellent Slovenian goalkeeper got down well to prevent the danger; then Henrikh Mkhitaryan was brought on as the clock ticked down.
One of Atletico’s only chances to end the tie came afterwards, with Costa cleverly putting the ball on a plate for Griezmann with a cut-back, but the no. 7’s effort was heroically blocked after his dummy utterly un-did Callum Chambers.