Diego Costa scored for Atletico Madrid just five minutes into his return as the club cruised to a 4-0 win at Lleida Esportiu in the Spanish Copa Del Rey on Wednesday.
Costa, who rejoined from Chelsea in September but could not play until the transfer window opened this month, came on as a 64th-minute substitute and swept home Atletico’s third in the 69th minute in the first leg of a last 16 tie.
The Spain international started the move that led to his goal, driving forward before moving the ball wide, allowing Juanfran to whip in a low cross that Costa clipped past Lleida keeper David Oliveros.
Costa appeared to have injured himself stretching to score the goal, but carried on and finished the game.
Two goals in four first half minutes from Diego Godin and Fernando Torres set Atletico up for the comfortable win away to third tier Lleida, with Godin heading home a drilled free-kick after 33 minutes and Torres doubling the lead soon after, just about staying onside to tap home Kevin Gameiro’s low cross.
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) January 3, 2018
Costa’s fellow sub Antoine Griezmann completed the rout in the final seconds, his deflected free-kick sailing past Oliveros giving Diego Simeone’s side a seemingly unassailable lead ahead of Tuesday’s second leg at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid.
Barcelona and Real Madrid play their respective first leg clashes with Celta Vigo and second-tier Numancia on Wednesday, with Barca coach Ernesto Valverde set to rest Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, who both returned late from holidays in South America, as well as captain Andres Iniesta.
Barcelona striker Ousmane Dembele, who has been sidelined since September, has been cleared to make his comeback in Thursday’s Copa del Rey clash against Celta Vigo.
The French international has not played since tearing his hamstring at Getafe on September 16, just three games into his Barca career following a 105-million-euro ($124 million) move from Borussia Dortmund that could rise to as much as 145 million euros.
“After a lengthy recovery process from an injury to the femoral biceps on his left thigh, the 20-year-old Frenchman is now available for (Barcelona coach) Ernesto Valverde,” Barcelona said on Tuesday.
Holders Barcelona will face Celta Vigo, coached by former Barca goalkeeper and assistant manager Juan Carlos Unzue, in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey, the Spanish Cup.
Diego costa has declared himself ready to play after completing his protracted move to Atletico Madrid.
The former Chelsea striker agreed to rejoin the LaLiga side in September but has been unable to register because of the club’s transfer ban.
He was officially introduced as an Atletico player on Sunday, and said he was ‘tired’ of training and keen to play as soon as possible – with Atletico’s next match coming against Lleida Esportiu in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.
“I want to thank the club for the effort they have made to bring me back,” costa said, in comments reported by Marca.
“I just want to play as soon a possible. I’m tired of training.”
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— Diego Costa (@diegocosta) December 31, 2017
Costa, 29, helped Chelsea to the Premier League title last season but his three-year spell at Stamford Bridge came to an acrimonious end.
Manager Antonio Conte told costa early in the summer he was not part of his plans, but costa spurned offers from elsewhere to focus on Atletico – despite knowing the club’s transfer ban would prevent him from playing until January.
On Sunday, costa said he bore no grudges against anyone at Chelsea despite perhaps never fully settling in London.
“I did not learn to speak English,” he said. “A pity, but the truth is that there were very good people who helped me and made my life easy. It’s a great club and there are only good memories.”
Costa joined Chelsea from Atletico in 2014, and the club’s president Enrique Cerezo said: “costa does not need an introduction because this is his home and today we give him the best of welcomes. He is an extraordinary player and a great friend.”
After missing the first half of the season, costa has work to do to force his way into Spain’s plans for the World Cup, but said the best way to convince Julen Lopetegui of his qualities was to score goals for Atletico.
“It’s a challenge,” he said. “The first thing is to do things right here, because if that happens it will be easier to be one of Lopetegui’s options.”