Villa,Costa have Atletico snapping at Barcelona’s heelshttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/print/villa-costa-have-atletico-snapping-at-barcelonas-heels/

Villa,Costa have Atletico snapping at Barcelona’s heels

Diego Costa and David Villa delivered again for Atletico Madrid.

Diego Costa and David Villa delivered again for Atletico Madrid,whose Spanish league title charge continued to gain strength with a 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao. Villa enjoyed Atletico’s best opportunities at the Vicente Calderon Stadium and put the hosts ahead after 32 minutes on Sunday by volleying Juanfran’s cross through the crowded area into goal.

Nine minutes later,Koke delivered a perfect ball to Costa,who the cut back to dribble around Erik Moran and fire a low shot beyond goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz for his joint league-leading 13th goal of the season. Bilbao rarely threatened and was reduced to 10 men in the 81st when Moran was shown a second yellow.

Atletico’s 11th win in 12 rounds left it one point behind leader Barcelona,which has 34 points. Real Madrid,which beat Rayo Vallecano 3-2 on Saturday,is third in the standings with 28 points. “We’re not frustrated that Barcelona keeps winning. We’re just happy to keep competing with them after so many rounds,” Simeone said.

Also Sunday,Valencia lifted some of the pressure of coach Miroslav Djukic with its first win in five rounds,a 1-0 victory at Getafe. Granada scored in stoppage time for a 1-0 win at Levante,while Malaga also needed an injury time winner from a late substitute to beat Real Betis 3-2. Costa,the Brazilian-born,naturalized Spaniard,has spearheaded Atletico’s title credentials so far this season.

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But it was Gabi who first tested Iraizoz in the 18th,and the goalie made an outstanding reaction save to a low drive. Costa then showed how dangerous he is when given space in front of goal as he moved freely down the left to poke a shot past Iraizoz,but beyond the far post. Atletico and was inching closer to an opener as Iraizoz made another reaction save to deny Villa’s powerful half-volley in the 26th.

But Iraizoz couldn’t keep up with the Spanish striker’s shot from almost the same spot moments later,as Villa’s sixth goal of the season made it 1-0. Koke has been instrumental in Costa’s scoring run and the midfielder again set up the striker to add the second,putting him even with Cristiano Ronaldo atop the scoring chart.

Valencia had lost three straight before the game at the Alfonso Perez Stadium but an impressive first-half strike from Dorlan Pabon sealed the morale-boosting victory. Athletic is fifth with 20 points,one more than Getafe. Levante is on 17 points,while crosstown club Valencia has 16. Levante had a penalty in the 25th,but midfielder Nabil El Zhar saw his spot kick saved by Roberto Fernandez. That left the game scoreless until Keylor Navas was beaten by Piti’s free kick.

Malaga win too

Meanwhile,Roque Santa Cruz and Eliseu put Malaga ahead in each half only for Joan Verdu to cancel out the opener with a 33rd-minute free kick,and Jordi Figueras to equalise again with an angled header in the 61st. But Malaga substitute Samuel Sanchez scored in the fourth minute of added time by volleying in a rebound after Francisco Portillo’s effort came off the crossbar.