Arsene Wenger’s hopes of a third – and final – appearance in a major European club competition final with Arsenal were left in tatters by an old Premier League scourge.
Former Chelsea man Diego Costa proved the difference on the night, finishing clinically in first half injury time to book Atletico Madrid a Europa League Final meeting with Marseille after a 2-1 semi-final aggregate success.
In truth the Gunners created little, and will be left to rue an opportunity lost in the first leg when Diego Simeone’s side were reduced to 10 men early on, with the coach himself also sent to the stand.
A bad night was also made worse when skipper Laurent Koscielny was carried off with an Achilles injury, which looks likely to rule the French defender out of the World Cup.
“It was a similar game to what we had in the first leg,” noted Wenger post-match. “The dangerous situations we created were there but we missed something in both boxes. We played a good team and good luck to them in the final but we feel we did enough to go through.
“We didn’t manage the important moments of either game well. We were 1-0 up with 10 minutes to go at home, and then conceded a stupid goal. Tonight we looked OK and then conceded on the counter attack. Atletico played with fear in the first half that if we score they could be out, but once they scored they played with a cushion. We lost possession and Costa is one of the best strikers in the world.”
“It is very very sad but unfortunately you have to go through this in our game. It can be very cruel but sometimes it is nice. The suffering is tough.”
There are now only three matches left for Wenger before he officially departs after nearly 22 years at the helm. Following a home game with Burnley on Sunday – his last at the Emirates – they travel to Leicester City before his final fixture, a potentially pivotal encounter for relegation-threatened Huddersfield Town.