Atletico close on surprise La Liga triumph

By Iain Rogers, Reuters

Posted at Apr 14 2014 01:52 PM | Updated as of Apr 14 2014 09:52 PM

Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa (L) fights for the ball with Getafe's Alexis Ruano Delgado during their Spanish first division soccer match at Coliseum Alfonso Perez stadium in Getafe, outside Madrid, April 13, 2014. Photo by Susana Vera, Reuters.

MADRID - 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 2004.

Barca surrendered second place to Real on Saturday when they followed up Wednesday's Champions League elimination at the hands of Atletico with a shock 1-0 defeat at Granada and Real thumped Almeria 4-0 at the 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 stadium following their exertions against Barca, when they reached the last four of Europe's elite club competition for the first time since 1974.

They last won La Liga in 1996 with a team featuring current coach Diego Simeone in midfield and remain on course for what would be a remarkable double of La Liga and Champions League.

Centre back 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 news conference.

"One more cut to the tiger doesn't affect him," added the Argentine, before urging the Atletico faithful to turn out at the 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 La Liga 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 and host Malaga before the trip to Barca.

Real have home games against Osasuna and Valencia, away matches at Real Valladolid and Celta Vigo and a home game against Espanyol. Barca 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 host Malaga on Monday, when a Kevin Gameiro double sealed a 2-0 win at 10-man city rivals Real Betis.

Sevilla have 56 points, with Bilbao on 59 and in pole position to secure a berth in Champions League qualifying for 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 missed a chance to climb further away from danger when they conceded two minutes from time in a 2-2 draw at Espanyol.

The stalemate at Cornella-El Prat stadium in Barcelona left Madrid-based Rayo in 12th on 37 points, three behind ninth-placed Espanyol. (Editing by Ed Osmond)