Atletico Madrid’s Brazilian striker Diego Costa scored twice as they came from behind to beat Levante UD 3-2 at home on Saturday to go three points clear at the top of La Liga.
Costa grabbed the winner 13 minutes from time to become the league’s top scorer with 19 goals so far this season, two more than Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Atletico go into the winter break with 46 points and a 100 percent home record. Barcelona, second with 43 points, would draw level if they won at Getafe yesterday, when Real Madrid, eight points adrift of Atletico, were to face Valencia.
Levante went out with a five-man back line and the clear intention of defending deep, but were able to cause Atletico problems in the opening stages as the home side lacked concentration.
Diego Simeone’s side have been a model of consistency so far, but they left gaps and failed to pick up their men in defense. Levante made them pay for that in the first minute, when a pass by Nikolaos Karabelas split the defense and Andreas Ivanschitz fired the ball past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Atletico found a way through in the 30th when Diego Godin steered a strong header into the top corner.
Costa volleyed Atletico in front from a 47th-minute Gabi Fernandez free-kick, but as they pushed forward they were exposed defensively, with Pedro Rios sprinting clear to make it 2-2 in the 55th.
With 13 minutes to go, Juanfran Torres was brought down in the box by Ruben Garcia and Costa converted. Levante’s night got worse when Juanfran Garcia was given a red card for a spat with Felipe Luis.
Earlier on the day, Sevilla defender Cala scored midway through the first half as his side made up for a shock Copa del Rey exit at the hands of Racing Santander with a 2-1 victory over Villarreal.
Carlos Bacca slotted home after the break before Cala conceded an 86th-minute penalty and was dismissed. Jeremy Perbet scored from the spot, but Sevilla held on to claim a third successive away win.
Sevilla are seventh with 26 points, one place behind Villarreal, who were leapfrogged by Real Sociedad after they beat Granada 3-1.
UD Almeria piled the pressure on bottom side Real Betis Balompie as Ramon Azeez scored a fourth-minute goal for a 1-0 away win.