Diego Costa struck twice to move to the top of the La Liga scoring charts with 10 goals as Madrid made it eight wins from eight league matches.
Atletico keep pace with Barca, edge Celta Vigo
MADRID // Diego Costa made up for the disappointment of his non-inclusion in the Spain squad by scoring twice as Atletico Madrid made it eight wins from eight league games with a 2-1 victory over Celta Vigo.
The Brazilian-born striker was not included in Vicente del Bosque’s squad on Friday as the paperwork that will make him eligible for the world champions was not completed in time.
However, he again made his case for a future call up with another two strikes to take him top of the La Liga scoring charts with 10 goals, two ahead of Lionel Messi.
It could have been even better for Costa had he not seen a first-half penalty saved by Yoel Rodriguez.
He made amends just before half-time by tapping home from Filipe Luis’ cross and then drove home a second 17 minutes after the break.
Nolito’s cute finish 19 minutes from time made it a nervy finish for Diego Simeone’s men, but they held on to move level with Barcelona on 24 points at the top of the table, five points ahead of neighbours Real Madrid.
“The first-half was very complete, but we just needed the goal,” said Simeone.
“With complete territorial dominance and when you are playing well offensively the important thing is to finish your chances.
“We didn’t do that and therefore we found ourselves in difficulty near the end.”
The Argentine denied that his side had suffered physically in the final quarter after two demanding games against Real Madrid and Porto in the past week and instead gave credit to Celta for their revival towards the end.
“It wasn’t a physical dip, but the fact the opponent grew into the game. It is a normal situation.
“We always had the threat of the counter-attack, but it Celta’s good play that forced us back.”
Costa had a golden chance to open his account for the day on 25 minutes when Luis was chopped down by David Costas, but Yoel prevailed as he dived low to his left to save the spot-kick.
The breakthrough did finally come three minutes before the break when another galloping run from Luis took him to the by-line and he squared for Costa to bundle home from barely a yard out.
Atletico had a glorious chance to make the game safe on 56 minutes when Costa teed-up David Villa only for the former Barcelona man to side-foot wide with the whole goal to aim for.
And moments later Villa had to be withdrawn due to an arthritic condition in his left ankle which has ruled him out of Spain’s World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and Georgia.
The second goal did arrive just six minutes later as Costa showed great strength to collect Mario Suarez’s long pass, shrug off Costas and then thump the ball under Yoel.
However, Celta were suddenly back in the game on 71 minutes when Nolito withheld Juanfran’s challenge inside the area and dinked a composed finish over Thibaut Courtois to half the deficit.
And Courtois was forced into his first serious save of the match deep into stoppage time as he flew to his left to turn away Nolito’s 25-yard free-kick to ensure Atleti held on for the three points.
Elsewhere, Valencia failed to make it five consecutive wins in all competitions as Mikel Rico’s header 15 minutes from time handed Athletic Bilbao a share of the points in a 1-1 draw at the new San Mames.
Getafe are now level on points with both Valencia and Athletic in fifth after three goals in the opening 27 minutes sealed their third consecutive win as they went on to beat Real Betis 3-1.
And Sevilla also continued their improving form with a 2-1 win over bottom-placed Almeria thanks to Ivan Rakitic’s stoppage time header.