Costa helps Atletico sink Arsenal to reach Europa final


4 May, 2018 10:52 AM

Costa helps Atletico sink Arsenal to reach Europa final

Atletico's Diego Costa celebrates with teammates after scoring. Photo: AP

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Diego Costa struck the only goal as Arsenal’s hopes of winning one last trophy under departing coach Arsene Wenger ended with a 1-0 defeat against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semifinals on Thursday.

The second-leg result also means Arsenal will not qualify for the Champions League for a second straight season.

Atletico advanced 2-1 on aggregate thanks to Costa’s goal in first-half injury time.

The Madrid club will meet Marseille in the final in Lyon on May 16 after the French team lost 2-1 to Salzburg following extra-time in Austria but went through 3-2 on aggregate.

Amadou Haidara and an own goal from Bouna Sarr put Salzburg 2-0 up on the night before Portuguese substitute Rolando struck in the 116th minute to send Marseille through.

Diego Simeone’s Atletico is already certain of a Champions League place next season because it is second in the Spanish League.

Atletico was demoted to the Europa League after failing to get past the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in five seasons.

"It was important to make it to the final," Costa said. "Atletico needed it, we are a great team."

Atletico will be playing in a European final for the fifth time in nine years. It lost twice to city rival Real Madrid in the Champions League in 2014 and 2016 but won the Europa League in 2010 and 2012, the last time soon after Simeone had taken over.

Arsenal is sixth in the Premier League and needed to win the Europa League to qualify for Europe’s leading club competition.

Wenger, in his 250th UEFA game as a club coach, announced two weeks ago he was standing down after nearly 22 years with the London team.

Costa, the scourge of Arsenal several times during his three seasons with Chelsea, picked up a perfect pass by Antoine Griezmann and strode into the area before fending off a defender and lifting the ball over goalkeeper David Ospina.

Arsenal tried to rally but struggled to break through Atletico’s stout defence, creating few scoring opportunities.

The hosts continued to threaten with Costa and Griezmann up front and had a few good chances to make it 2-0.

Both teams started cautiously at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, with Arsenal trying to control possession and Atletico playing typically tight at the back.

Arsenal lost captain Laurent Koscielny with an apparent ankle injury less than 10 minutes into the match, putting in doubt his World Cup participation with France next month.

It was Atletico’s 32nd game with a clean sheet in all competitions this season, the most of any team in the top five European leagues.

Atletico didn’t have Simeone on the bench on Thursday because he was sent off in the first leg.