Atletico Madrid won 4-2 at nine-man Real Betis Balompie to rise to second place in La Liga on Wednesday, with Radamel Falcao scoring a double to become the leading scorer in the competition this season.
Betis took a 2-1 advantage into halftime after having the good fortune to score off a pair of passes that ended up finding the back of the net, but Falcao answered both times to take his league tally to seven goals.
Diego Costa and Raul Garcia then netted to ensure undefeated Atletico their fourth straight victory through five rounds.
Falcao’s goals puts him one ahead of Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, while Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo has only scored three times so far.
“I never said I wanted to compete with Cristiano and Messi,” Falcao said. “I want to score goals to help my team. Nothing else. We are competing with 19 teams, not just Madrid and Barcelona. We have high hopes to do good things after this strong start to the season.”
Betis forward Salvador Agra’s long pass in the 25th minute caught Atletico goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo anticipating Ruben Castro’s run, leaving him out of position to intercept the ball as it crossed his area and fell in the far corner of the goal.
Falcao stretched to redirect in Garcia’s low pass to level for the visitors three minutes later.
Those same two players then forced one-handed saves from goalkeeper Casto Espinosa as Atletico pressed forward, but it was Betis who went back in front when Juan Carlos Perez’s pass took a deflection off Atletico defender Juanfran Torres and looped over Asenjo for a goal just before halftime.
The game swung back in Atletico’s favor three minutes after the restart.
Damien Perquis was shown a straight red card for fouling Falcao in the box, leaving Betis a man down and without the lead after the Colombia international fired in the spot-kick.
It was Falcao’s 10th goal through six games in all competitions for Atletico this season.
“Betis’ goals came from strokes of luck and their goalkeeper was the best player of the first half,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “In the second half, the penalty set us on course.”
Diego Castro went on for Falcao in the 54th minute and a minute later scored from close range after a deflected ball fell at his feet.
Simeone said that he replaced Falcao after he scored the penalty because “he didn’t feel well.”
Betis went down to nine men in the 78th minute after substitute Joel Campbell received his second booking for handling the ball, when it appeared that Atletico’s Filipe Luis in fact had touched it first with his hand inside his own penalty area.
“We saw some unbelievable things happen in this game. If I bit my tongue, I would poison myself,” said Betis coach Pepe Mel, whose team’s two-game winning run came to an end. “We went from the chance to make it 3-3 to being down to nine men.”
Atletico eventually capitalized on their numerical advantage in stoppage-time when Garcia was left unmarked to leisurely volley into the top of the net.
The match was originally scheduled for Sept. 3, but it was pushed back due to Atletico’s appearance in the European Super Cup.
Both teams face a quick turnaround, with Betis playing at Malaga tomorrow and Atletico at RCD Espanyol on Sunday.