Sat, Nov 02, 2013 - Page 20 News List

On-form Costa, Villa keep Atletico on Barcelona’s tails

AFP and Reuters, MADRID

Atletico Madrid’s David Villa, left, is fouled by Granada’s Jeison Fabian Murillo in their La Liga match at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes in Granada, Spain, on Thursday.

Photo: Reuters

A penalty in each half from Diego Costa and David Villa moved Atletico Madrid back to within a point of Barcelona at the top of La Liga with a 2-1 win at Granada on Thursday.

Costa declared his intention to play for Spain earlier in the week and he bolstered his claim to be included in Vicente del Bosque’s squad next week by converting from the spot after Villa was bundled over by Diego Mainz seven minutes before halftime.

Villa was again the victim for the second penalty award 12 minutes from time, but despite Costa still being on the field, it was Villa who took responsibility to seal the points with another confidently struck spot-kick.

Atletico were then reduced to 10 men with two minutes remaining when Filipe Luis was shown a second yellow card. Odion Ighalo pulled a goal back in stoppage-time, but it was too little too late for Granada, who slipped to their fifth home defeat of the season.

Atletico suffered their only loss of the season in their last away game at RCD Espanyol, but manager Diego Simeone continued to talk down their chances of challenging Barcelona and Real Madrid for the title.

“I am very happy for the effort the players have shown, it is not easy to keep winning, but we are not thinking further than the match against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday,” he said.

Granada pressured Atletico early on at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes when midfielder Recio saw a deflected effort clip the crossbar and then forced Thibaut Courtois to awkwardly turn the ball over his own bar.

However, Atletico began to take control of the game midway through the first half and were gifted the chance to open the scoring when Mainz unnecessarily charged into the back of Villa inside the area.

Costa rolled the ball down the middle of the goal to register his 12th league goal of the season and move him back ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo on 11 as La Liga’s top scorer.

Adrian Lopez and Costa then passed up fine opportunities to double Atletico’s advantage, but they did finally get the all-important second goal when Villa was chopped down by Jeison Murillo.

Elsewhere on the night, Bilbao climbed to fifth — level on 20 points with fourth-placed Villarreal — when they came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home to promoted Elche.

Getafe, one of the surprises of the season, closed to within a point of Villarreal and Bilbao in sixth when they won 2-0 at Villarreal’s El Madrigal.

Real Betis Balompie forward Jorge Molina had a second-half penalty saved by Levante UD goalkeeper Keylor Navas in a 0-0 draw in Seville to leave struggling Betis in 18th and Levante in seventh.

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