Diego Costa bags a brace as Atletico defeat Levante to go top of La Liga
Diego Costa scored his La Liga-leading 18th and 19th goals to help Atletico Madrid come back to beat a feisty Levante 3-2 on Saturday and provisionally move to the top of the table.
Atletico leads Barcelona by three points before their game at Getafe on Sunday, when the defending champions will be without the injured Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Victor Valdes and suspended striker Neymar.
Diego Costa moved two goals ahead of Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo in their scoring duel. The Brazilian-born striker whom Spain plans on taking to the World Cup has scored in all 11 of Atletico’s wins he has participated in at Vicente Calderon Stadium this season.
Levante stunned the hosts by scoring less than a minute into the match when Andreas Ivanschitz finished off a team buildup.
Atletico pushed Levante into their area, and the equaliser came on the half-hour when defender Diego Godin rose up to powerfully head Juanfran Torres’ short cross past goalie Keylor Navas.
Diego Costa put his team ahead two minutes after the break by fending off his marker to volley in a lobbed free kick from Gabi Fernandez.
Levante weren’t done and Pedro Rios made it 2-2 in the 56th minute with a solo effort to win the ball, sprint forward and score from distance.
Diego Costa, however, restored Atletico’s advantage for good in the 77th minute by stepping up to convert a penalty after Juanfran Torres was fouled by Ruben Garcia on the edge of the box.
Levante finished with 10 men after Juanfran Garcia was shown a red card in the 90th minute apparently for striking Filipe Luis while awaiting a corner kick.
Also Saturday, Carlos Vela scored twice to lead Real Sociedad’s 3-1 victory at Granada.
Vela opened the scoring in the 29th minute from a pass by Antoine Griezmann, who reclaimed the lead in the 42nd minute with his 11th league goal after Piti leveled for Granada. Vela grabbed his double with a rising strike in the 64th minute.
Sociedad’s win lifted it past Villarreal into fifth place.
Ten-man Sevilla won 2-1 at Villarreal as they rebounded from their humbling exit from the Copa del Rey with a fourth win in five rounds
Sevilla was shocked by third-division side Racing Santander in the Copa on Wednesday, but Ivan Rakitic returned to the squad to help deal Villarreal just their second loss at El Madrigal Stadium this season.
Rakitic found defender Cala with a long pass to head Sevilla in front in the 24th minute, and striker Carlos Bacca scored his eighth league goal from a pass by Rakitic in the 71st minute.
Villarreal’s Jeremy Perbet converted a penalty in the 89th after Cala received a red card for fouling Jaume Costa in front of the net.
Villarreal coach Marcelino Garcia was ejected from the dugouts one minute from halftime for repeatedly complaining to the referee. He watched the rest of the match from a private box in the stadium’s upper level.
Almeria won 1-0 to keep Real Betis bottom of the table and winless in 10 league matches.
Almeria midfielder Ramon Azeez netted what proved to be the winner four minutes in when his long strike took a deflection off Betis defender Paulao to fool goalkeeper Guillermo Sara.
Betis has shown no improvement under new coach Juan Carlos Garrido. It has lost both league matches and struggled to get by minnow Lleida Esportiu in the Copa since Garrido replaced the fired Pepe Mel.