Tue, Apr 15, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Atletico edge closer to La Liga title

Reuters, MADRID

Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa, right, scores past Getafe goalkeeper Jordi Codina in their La Liga match at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez in Getafe, Spain, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Atletico Madrid moved closer to a first La Liga title in almost two decades when Diego Godin and Diego Costa scored in a 2-0 win at 10-man Getafe on Sunday that stretched their advantage at the top to three points.

The surprise leaders ahead of much wealthier rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona, Atletico are well placed with five games left to become the first club other than the big two to win Spain’s domestic league since Valencia in 2003-2004.

Barca surrendered second place to Real on Saturday when they followed up Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League elimination at the hands of Atletico with a shock 1-0 defeat at Granada and Real thumped UD Almeria 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Atletico have 82 points, with Real in second on 79 and Barca, who host Atletico on the final day of the season, on 78.

Atletico showed no sign of fatigue at Getafe’s Coliseum Alfonso Perez following their exertions against Barcelona. They last won La Liga in 1995-1996 with a team featuring current coach Diego Simeone.

Centerback Godin, who earlier went close with another header, nodded into an empty net five minutes before halftime after Getafe goalkeeper Jordi Codina came out to meet a Juanfran cross, but failed to connect.

Angel Lafita was sent off for hauling Miranda down in the penalty area and Atletico’s top scorer Costa, back in the side after injury, had his 66th-minute spot-kick saved by Codina.

Costa made amends when he slid in to divert Adriano’s cross into the net six minutes from time, but had to be carried off the pitch on a stretcher after crashing into a post and gashing his left shin just below the knee.

“He is happy and he is fine,” Simeone, who has transformed the team since taking over at the end of 2011, told a press conference.

“One more cut to the tiger doesn’t affect him,” the Argentine added, before urging the Atletico faithful to turn out at the Vicente Calderon for their next game at home to Elche on Friday.

“I expect a full stadium for one of the five finals we have left,” he said.

Brazil-born Costa is second in the league scoring list with 26 goals, two behind Real forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

After the Elche game, Simeone’s side have potentially tricky away games at Valencia and Levante UD, then they host Malaga before the trip to Barcelona.

Real have home games against CA Osasuna and Valencia, away matches at Real Valladolid and RC Celta de Vigo and a home game against RCD Espanyol. Barcelona host Athletic Bilbao, travel to Villarreal, entertain Getafe and visit Elche before the Atletico showdown.

Sevilla closed to within three points of fourth-placed Athletic Bilbao, who were due to host Malaga yesterday, when a Kevin Gameiro brace sealed a 2-0 win at 10-man city rivals Real Betis Balompie.

Sevilla have 56 points, with Bilbao on 59 and in pole position to secure a berth in Champions League qualifying next season.

Betis, who had midfielder Juan Carlos sent off in the 27th minute, are eight points adrift at the bottom of the table and appear doomed to relegation.

Eighth-placed Valencia, who were paired with Sevilla in Friday’s draw for the Europa League semi-finals, won 2-1 at home to strugglers Elche to keep alive their hopes of a place in continental competition.

Rayo Vallecano de Madrid missed a chance to climb further away from danger when they conceded two minutes from time in a 2-2 draw at RCD Espanyol.

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