Diego Simeone said a half-time change in Atletico Madrid’s tactics and attitude made the difference in Wednesday’s Champions League last 16 first leg at AC Milan.
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Milan had the better of the first half at their San Siro ground and came the Serie A strugglers came close when a Kaka shot hit the crossbar and Thibaut Courtois saved Andrea Poli’s close-range header. But Atletico upped their intensity after the break and took control of the tie through Diego Costa’s late header.
Argentine coach Simeone told his postgame news conference that it had indeed been a game of two halves.
“In first half we were slow, predictable and they played the game they wanted to,” he said. “From minute 10 to 45 they played as they wanted. Then, after the break, it was the opposite and we played as we wanted.”
Colchoneros top scorer Costa told Canal Plus after game that Atletico had not lost faith in themselves through a recent dodgy spell, and had always felt confident they could win the game.
“We have confidence in ourselves,” he said. “We lost three games and people started to doubt, but we did not doubt. We are very strong. It was a difficult game. We knew about the pressure. We went looking for the game in the key moment. We had to wait for our opportunity.”
Belgium international Courtois described his first-half contribution to UEFA's official website at San Siro.
“I think I made some good saves, the one from the header [by Poli] was difficult because he was very close,” the on-loan Chelsea keeper said. “I was good on my feet and had a good reflex to push it against the post.”
Meanwhile, Rossoneri coach Clarence Seedorf has said there are still 90 minutes to be played between Milan and Atletico, and there is still all to play for.
After hitting the woodwork twice, Seedorf is encouraged ahead of the return leg in Spain, insisting all is not yet lost. "I think everybody saw tonight how well the lads are doing, and I'm proud of them," Seedorf said to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"We were just a bit unlucky with their goal. We have every reason to be optimistic; we do right to believe we can still overturn this result. Let's hope for the sake of Italian football that we can do just that.
"It's a shame about the result, but we take a lot of positives from the game. It's still only half-time and there's another round to go."
Kaka added: "There's a very bitter taste in the mouth. Because we played a good game and didn't deserve this result, but that's football and now we've got to play the second leg.
"We can still beat them, we've just got to believe in it. If my shot against the crossbar or Poli's header against the post goes in, then it's a different story, but we move on and take the positives with us."