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Deportivo La Coruña
15 March 2014
• Estadio Vicente Calderón, Madrid
Referee: Pedro Jesús Pérez Montero
• Attendance: 46000
Diego Costa 55'
That result takes Atletico Madrid four points ahead of third-place Barcelona - who play Osasuna tomorow - and three points behind city rivals Real. Diego Simeone's side travel to bottom-of-the-table Betis next weekend while Espanyol - who stay in ninth place - take on Levante at home. Thanks for joining me on this live commentary. Until next time, goodbye.
As for Espanyol, their European hopes appear to have faded now although they can take credit from their performance today. Javier Aguirre's side looked resilient and well-organised defensively and on another day, they could have snatched a point here.
FT: Atletico Madrid 1-0 Espanyol. Diego Costa's 30th goal of the season gives Diego Simeone's side a hard-fought win to extend their unbeaten league record at the Vicente Calderon. It was hardly a vintage Atletico performance and they managed only two shots on target all game. However, some might say, that is what champions are made of.
90' + 4'
The referee raises his arms and blows the final whistle. Atletico Madrid were made to work for it but they have closed the gap on Real Madrid back to three points.
90' + 3'
Atletico are hoping to run down the clock and they head directly to the corner flag, much to the frustration of their opponents. We have less than a minute remaining in Madrid.
90' + 2'
GARCIA GOES CLOSE! Sergio Garcia has lacked service this evening but he does brilliantly to fashion an opening by himself, spinning away from Alderweireld before firing narrowly over the bar. That was the chance for Espanyol.
Yellow Card Tiago
It's a late change for Espanyol as Romania international Gabriel Torje replaces Pizzi. Will he have time to make an impact?
Raul Garcia has added stability to the Atletico midfield since coming on and he combines neatly with Diego before firing a left-footed shot inches wide of the far post. Diego Simeone's side are just two minutes away from a crucial three points.
Cordoba has shown plenty of attacking endeavour since coming on but he shows his inexperience on this occasion as he collects a pass inside the box before rashly firing into the side netting from an acute angle.
Víctor Sánchez Mata
Sanchez is on a disciplinary tightrope after that booking and Aguirre wisely decides to replace him with Fernandez for the remaining minutes.
Stuani has been a threat down the right and he manages to escape from Filipe to get his cross into the box. However, Cordoba cannot get the ball under control and Courtois gathers.
Yellow Card Víctor Sánchez Mata
Sanchez is the next man to be shown a yellow card after his late tackle on Raul Garcia. The Atletico players are not happy about that challenge.
Costa produces a splendid piece of control to bring the ball down on his chest before attempting to pick out Raul Garcia's run into the box. However, Fuentes is alert to the danger and backtracks excellently to win the header.
It certainly has not been the prettiest of performances by Atletico today but sometimes you need those scrappy 1-0 wins to become a title-winning side. Diego Simeone's side are nine minutes away from closing the gap on Real Madrid back to three points.
David Villa receives a wonderful reception from the home fans as he is replaced by Raul Garcia for the final ten minutes. It's been another impressive performance from the former Barcelona star.
Yellow Card Jhon Córdoba
Cordoba has made an impact from the Espanyol bench but he goes into the referee's notebook after a high boot inside the Atletico box.
GOOD SAVE BY COURTOIS! The Belgian goalkeeper is not showing too many signs of discomfort after that injury and he dives down low to his right to tip David Lopez's shot behind the post for a corner.
It is Espanyol who are doing the pressing at the moment and they nearly find an opening when Stuani's knockdown goes just behind Cordoba. It's going to be a nervy finale for Atletico.
Atletico have some concerns over Courtois here and the Chelsea loanee is still on the turf, receiving treatment. I don't suspect that we will see Gabi in goal this time however and it is Aranzubia who is warming up.
Cordoba has certainly caused Alderweireld problems with his pace and he nips behind the Belgian defender to poke the ball past Courtois. However, he cannot latch onto the end of it and both players receive treatment for the collision.
Diego Simeone decides to make a second substitution, with Diego replacing Arda Turan. Can the Brazilian help Atletico to wrap up the three points?
Yellow Card Diego Godín
Godin picks up the third booking of the game for dissent. The Uruguayan has enjoyed a solid defensive performance so far.
Espanyol have looked dangerous from set-piece situations and Tiago produces another valuable headed clearance to deny Sergio Garcia. Diego is being readied on the sidelines for Atletico.
Espanyol are not willing to just sit back and defend however and Courtois is forced into another smart stop as he reacts superbly to parry David Lopez's deflected shot from the edge of the box.
Atletico are getting closer to finding that second goal and Villa combines excellently with Costa once again, who bulldozes his way past two Espanyol defenders before rounding Casilla and firing over from a narrow angle.
Turan has struggled to create chances for his teammates this evening but on this occasion he does brilliantly to wriggle away from Fuentes before his fizzed cross just evades the head of Costa in the middle.
Javier Aguirre opts to make his first change of the game as young Colombian striker Jhon Cordoba replaces Simao. The former Atletico man gets a warm reception from the Vicente Calderon faithful as he leaves the field.
Costa has looked a menace in this second half though he is denied a second goal here as the linesman's flag is raised for offside. What a revelation he has been this season, 22 goals now in 27 league matches!
Atletico have looked a little vulnerable since going ahead and Stuani bulldozes his way past Filipe before Courtois fumbles the ball to safety. A defeat for Espanyol here would surely destroy their faint hopes of achieving European football next season.
Espanyol look to respond immediately to going behind but Tiago produces two good headers to deny the visitors the equaliser. Atletico have conceded just 21 goals in La Liga this season, less than any other side.
Assist David Villa
Goal Diego Costa
COSTA GIVES ATLETICO THE LEAD! It's a massive goal for Atletico and Villa is the architect as he threads a wonderful pass behind Colotto for Costa to chase. The Spain international shrugs off the challenge of the Argentine defender - resisting the urge to go to ground - and coolly finishes past Casilla. Diego Simeone celebrates on the touchline.
Villa has looked a particular threat in the air today and he is denied once again by Casilla after meeting Filipe's teasing cross with a firm header.
Diego Simeone has clearly seen enough and he decides to make his first substitution, introducing Koke in place of Sosa. Can the 22-year-old make the difference?
Yellow Card Arda Turan
Arda Turan picks up Atletico's first booking of the game for a late challenge on Sanchez. He looks incredulous about that decision but can have few complaints.
Sergio Garcia is sniffing around the Espanyol box for an opening and his opportunism is nearly rewarded when Sanchez's header just evades him inside the box. Atletico need to be careful that they do not commit too many bodies forward here.
Juanfran cuts onto his left foot and delivers a hopeful ball into the box, which Casilla nervously fumbles. However, the Espanyol goalkeeper reclaims the ball at the second attempt, under pressure from Costa. Good start to the second half from Atletico.
Juanfran will be hoping to push further forward in this second half but his first attacking contribution is a disappointing one as he overhits his cross from the right, with plenty of red and white shirts waiting in the box.
Espanyol get the second half underway although they come under immediate pressure as Tiago picks out the run of Villa. However, the former Barcelona man cannot find the back of the net from a narrow angle as his effort blazes over the crossbar.
The teams re-emerge from the tunnel for the second half and there have been no substitutions at the break. However, kick-off is delayed as there is a problem with one of the goalposts.
HT: Atletico 0-0 Espanyol. Diego Simeone's side have dominated possession in the first half but they are struggling to find a way past this resilient and well-organised Espanyol defence. David Villa went the closest to scoring when his header was well saved by Kiko Casilla and Diego Costa will still feel that he should have had a penalty after his tangling of legs with Juan Fuentes. However, Espanyol have looked a threat themselves and they are certainly not out of this one. All square at the Vicente Calderon at the break.
Atletico continue to clip long passes over the Espanyol defence but to no avail. Aside from that earlier Villa header, it's been a relatively comfortable first half for the visitors.
There is a stoppage in play here as Pizzi goes down clutching his shin after a late challenge. The Espanyol midfielder finally manages to get back to his feet where he hobbles to the touchline to receive treatment.
Gabi produces a fine glancing header to flick Sosa's corner towards the back post. However, Costa cannot react to it in time and just misses the ball with his acrobatic attempt.
Diego Simeone is up from the bench and barking orders to his players as they go in search of the opening goal. Atletico have tested Casilla in this first half but it has been a difficult 38 minutes for Los Rojiblancos so far.
Sanchez does brilliantly to nip the ball away from Gabi in a dangerous area and he feeds Pizzi outside the box. The former Atletico man looks to bend a shot into the far corner but Godin gets across to make a brave sliding challenge. You get the feeling that the first goal here could prove to be crucial.
Turan splits the Espanyol defence with an incise through ball but Casilla anticipates the danger early on and races out his goalmouth to deny Villa the opening goal.
Yellow Card Javier López Rodríguez
Javi Lopez picks up the first booking of the game for a late challenge on Sosa. Espanyol have certainly done a good job in frustrating the La Liga title-chasers here.
Simao refuses the urge to go for goal but his free kick towards the back post is too heavy for Sanchez and it goes behind for a goal kick. That was disappointing from the Portuguese winger.
Espanyol enjoy a tidy spell of possession outside the Atletico box as they patiently probe for an opening. Simao then prepares to take a free kick against his former club after Gabi brings down David Lopez.
Diego Costa feels he should have a penalty after his barnstorming run is brought to a halt by Fuentes inside the box. The Spain striker certainly appears to have a case there, however the referee is not interested in his appeals and waves play on. Let-off for Espanyol.
Filipe has made several smart runs down the left and he latches onto Villa's superb reverse pass on this occasion before his shot is well saved by Casilla.
Atletico are finding it difficult to penetrate the Espanyol midfield through the middle and are being forced to play the ball out wide. Filipe has looked sharp down the left although we have seen little of Juanfran down the right.
VILLA GOES CLOSE! The former Barcelona striker goes within inches of breaking the deadlock as he meets Filipe's teasing cross from the left with a back-flicked header which goes agonisingly past the far post. That was a fine piece of improvisation from Spain's leading all-time goalscorer.
GOOD SAVE BY COURTOIS! Sergio Garcia already has 10 league goals to his name this season and he spins Alderweireld brilliantly before his shot deflects off the heel of the Belgian defender, forcing Courtois to make an awkward low stop.
GABI GOES CLOSE! It's a drill off the training ground as Sosa clips a corner towards the edge of the box. However, the Atletico captain cannot replicate Gaizka Mendieta's famous effort as his volley rises over the bar.
There has been a lot of speculation that Javier Aguirre will leave Espanyol at the end of the season. With Fernando Santos stepping down after the World Cup, Aguirre has been linked with the Greece national job.
GOOD SAVE BY CASILLA! Villa nearly opens the scoring for the hosts as he rushes towards the front post to meet Sosa's teasing free kick. However, his powerful header is well palmed behind by the Espanyol goalkeeper.
Atletico are enjoying the lion's share of the possession early on but they have already been forced into a few errors due to Espanyol's quick pressing game. David Lopez, in particular, is determined to close down the Atletico midfield and afford them little space.
Filipe and Costa combine excellently down the left to send the Brazilian left-back away. However, his cross into the middle is too deep and Espanyol clear. David Villa, who scored twice against Celta Vigo last weekend, has barely had a touch in the opening 10 minutes.
Atletico are undefeated in 26 of their last 29 matches in La Liga and have won five of their last six home matches against Espanyol in all competitions.
Simao's neat footwork allows him to pick out Stuani outside the box. The Uruguayan nutmegs his international teammate Godin but he cannot produce the finish to match as his tame effort is easily held by Courtois. It's been a good start from both sides here.
Simao is a master from set-piece situations - as Atletico fans would know - but his first free kick here is disappointing and Alderweireld heads clear.
Espanyol were the first side to win at Athletic Bilbao's new San Mames. Can they repeat that feat and become the first team to win at the Vicente Calderon in the league this season?
Diego Costa is never one to make friends with opposing defenders and he is warned by the referee after an early altercation with Sanchez. Keep an eye on that battle.
Atletico have an early chance to get the ball into the box but Gabi's free kick is overhit, straight into the gloves of Casilla.
Costas Soto blows his whistle and Atletico Madrid get the game underway. Can they reduce the deficit on Real Madrid back to three points? Let's find out...
The two teams emerge from the tunnel with captains Gabi and Sergio Garcia leading the handshakes between the respective sides. Atletico are in their traditional red and white jerseys with Espanyol also in their familiar blue and white strip.
Can Diego Costa continue his hot streak in front of goal today? The Spain international has 21 goals in 26 league games this season, second only to Cristiano Ronaldo in the La Liga scoring charts.
Atletico are yet to lose at the Vicente Calderon in the league this season, scoring 43 goals in just 14 matches. Even more dauntingly for the visitors, Espanyol have claimed just three wins on the road.
The final whistle has gone at La Rosaleda and Cristiano Ronaldo's solitary strike takes Real Madrid four points clear at the top. Over to you, Atletico...
ESPANYOL (4-2-3-1): Casilla; J.Lopez, Colotto, Moreno, Fuentes; Sanchez, D.Lopez; Pizzi, Stuani, Simao; Sergio Garcia.
ATLETICO (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Juanfran, Godin, Alderweireld, Filipe; Tiago, Gabi; Turan, Sosa, Villa; Costa.
ESPANYOL TEAM NEWS: Javier Aguirre names an unchanged side to the team which defeated Elche 3-1 last Sunday. Portuguese midfielder Simao starts against his former club, while top goalscorer Sergio Garcia leads the line. Despite his heavy collision with Kiko Casilla that forced him off the field last weekend, Javi Lopez has fully recovered and starts.
ATLETICO TEAM NEWS: Diego Simeone has Diego Costa, Diego Godin and Arda Turan at his disposal once again after the trio missed the 2-0 win at Celta Vigo last weekend through suspension. However, Miranda and Mario Suarez both picked up their fifth bookings of the season last weekend, meaning Toby Alderweireld retains his spot in the defence with Jose Sosa earning a rare start in midfield.
As for Espanyol, they occupy ninth position in the La Liga table and still harness ambitions of sneaking into the European places. Atletico Madrid have lost only three league games this season but one of them did come against Espanyol when a Thibaut Courtois own goal gave the Catalunya-based side a 1-0 win, ending Los Rojiblancos' 100 per cent start to the season. Can they replicate that feat today?
Few people expected Atletico Madrid to last this long in the La Liga title race but Los Rojiblancos have a good chance of ending their 18-year wait for the league title with 11 games remaining. Diego Simeone has done a wonderful job at the Vicente Calderon and with Real Madrid set to face off with Barcelona next weekend, Atletico know that two wins from their next two games will give them a great opportunity.
With La Liga leaders Real Madrid currently beating Malaga 1-0, the pressure is on city rivals Atletico Madrid to keep up with the pace. Diego Simeone's side enjoyed a resounding 4-1 Champions League victory over Milan in midweek but this evening they face an Espanyol side who took all three points when they met at the Estadi Cornella El Prat back in October.
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