Atletico remain joint Liga leaders with Valencia rout

Reuters, BARCELONA, Spain

Tue, Dec 17, 2013 - Page 19

Diego Costa scored twice as Atletico Madrid beat Valencia 3-0 to maintain their winning home run this season and keep pace with Barcelona at the top of the La Liga table.

The in-form forward broke the deadlock on the hour mark and Raul Garcia added a second moments later after Valencia’s resistance was broken.

Costa then missed a penalty, but redeemed himself by converting a second with nine minutes to go for his 17th league goal of the season, putting him level with Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring charts.

“You need to show personality and fight for your achievements, so after missing the first penalty I wanted to take the second,” Costa told reporters.

The win keeps Atletico level on 43 points with Barcelona.

Atletico started slowly, with Gabi Fernandez and Tiago Cardoso quiet in the engine room and there were only flickers of life from their forwards.

They upped their game after halftime when Costa dribbled in from the left wing, with Victor Ruiz backing off before slotting home.

Minutes later, los Colchoneros were further in front when Raul Garcia knocked in a loose ball in the area.

Costa was then upended in the area by Ruiz and took the penalty, but Diego Alves saved well with his feet.

Atletico were now ripping open the Valencia defense and Antonio Barragan fouled Costa in the area before the striker found the top corner with his spot-kick.

Elsewhere in La Liga on Sunday, Real Sociedad bounced back from their Champions League exit with a resounding 5-1 win over bottom side Real Betis Balompie, while Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw.

Bilbao, fresh from beating leaders Barcelona last time out, were looking to consolidate fourth place in La Liga, but conceded an early goal from Alberto Moreno, who finished well from the edge of the area after four minutes.

Athletic were level moments later when Gaizka Toquero picked up a short back-pass from Federico Fazio and crossed for Markel Susaeta to prod the ball home from close range.

It was a game played at a high tempo and with plenty of goalmouth action, with Sevilla goalkeeper Beto saving the day for los Rojiblancos when he stopped a penalty at the end of the first half.

Carlos Bacca handled the ball in the area, but Beto guessed right with Susaeta’s spot-kick.

Bilbao stay fourth on 30 points and Sevilla, who came into the game on the back of three league wins, climb to seventh on 23.

Sociedad lie sixth with 26 points after their win and Betis are two points adrift at the foot of the table with 10 points.

The Basque side struggled with the demands of Europe’s top competition, picking up just one point from their group, but they put the disappointment behind them with their third successive league win.

Imanol Agirretxe scored the first of his two goals early on for the hosts, before Jorge Molina equalized after 19 minutes.

Ion Ansotegi headed Sociedad back in front soon after the break, while Betis’ misery was further compounded through second-half goals by Antoine Griezmann, Agirretxe and Xabi Prieto.