With the knowledge that they had taken 10 points from their last four meetings with Betis at the Benit Villamarín, Atleti headed to Sevilla with the intention of taking three points back to Madrid.
However, the Verdiblancos have had a great start to the campaign themselves and provided a great challenge in the first half.
Betis twice took the lead, but a double by Falcao and goals from Diego Costa and Raúl García elevated Atlético to the second highest spot in la Liga.
After a slow start, the game exploded in the 26th minute. Betis’ young winger Agra cut inside and crossed, and to his own surprise saw how the ball curled in for the opening goal. Sergio Asenjo – who started for Atleti for the first time since the 4th of December 2011, nearly two years ago – was caught out of position after Miranda and Godín both missed the ball.
Asenjo played on Wednesday night after Atlético’s medical and coaching staff had decided earlier on the day not to risk Thibaut Courtois, who’s recovering from a minor knee injury.
Atlético immediately struck back and scored not a minute later. Arda Turan chased a loose ball and cut it back for Raúl García. The midfielder’s low shot was promoted to a goal by Radamel Falcao, who slid the ball in to score his 30th la Liga goal. The striker has now scored in all of his last seven games with both Atleti and the Colombian national team.
After the two goals the game opened up, and Atleti nearly got a second when Cristián Rodríguez rifled a volley towards goal.
Cebolla again came within inches of scoring a few minutes later when he headed just wide. In between Asenjo had done very well to stop an attempt by former Rojiblanco Rubén Pérez.
Shortly before the break goalkeeper Casto denied Atlético with two mesmerising saves. First, he spectacularly stopped Raúl García’s shot, before later holding back Falcao with another great block.
Where Atleti failed to capitalise on one of their four big opportunities, Real Betis did strike from a half chance they were given when the one minute added time of the first half had already run out. The Béticos went forward one more time before the break, and to everyone’s surprise took another lead when Juan Carlos’ cross took a deflection and ricocheted over Asenjo and into the back of the net. It was Juanfran who was credited with the own goal.
What seemed like a huge blow wasn’t able to keep Atleti down. Straight after switching sides they bounced back again and within two minutes the team had equalised. Centre back Perquis held back and brought down Radamel Falcao, and referee Álvarez Izquierdo sent the Pole his marching orders and pointed to the spot. Falcao himself converted the penalty to overtake Leo Messi in La Liga’s Pichichi standings.
With two goals for El Tigre and the score all tied up, Simeone decided to rest his star player. Falcao is still nursing a groin injury and will hope to be fully fit next Sunday against Espanyol.
Fortunately for Atleti we have a striker more than capable to step in and to step up. With his first touch of the game Diego Costa scored from a corner after Mario Suárez had flicked on Arda’s cross. And so, within 10 minutes after half time, Atleti had turned the game around and were beating a 10-man Betis.
However, Atleti weren’t able to push through and were incredibly lucky when they did not concede a penalty in the 78th minute. Instead of pointing to the spot for the initial handball by Filipe, Álvarez Izquierda punished substitute Joel Campbell with his second yellow of the match.
With just nine men, the home side weren’t able to force a late rally and Atlético actually extended their lead in the added time. A nice move by Arda down the left was finished off by Raúl García to make it 4-2 and seal Atleti’s 2nd-place spot in the Liga BBVA.
Line-up: Asenjo; Juanfran, Miranda, Godín (“46 Cata Díaz), Filipe; Gabi, Mario; Raúl García, Arda, Rodríguez (“70 Koke); and Falcao (“53 Diego Costa).
Goals: 1-0 Agra (“26); 1-1 Falcao (“28); 2-1 Juanfran o.g. (“45+2); 2-2 Falcao (“48); 2-3 Diego Costa (“55); 2-4 Raúl García (“90+3)