Atlético Madrid kept their incredible home streak alive with a win over Real Betis in round 22 of the Liga BBVA.
Diego Simeone’s men have now won 20 consecutive games at the Vicente Calderón, including 13 in the league in which they have edged two points closer to Barcelona while extending their advantage over Real Madrid to 7 points.
Atleti started the game strong, but for a while it seemed the game would end goalless. Until the Beast of the Manzanares provided a spark in the second half with an inspiring cameo and a goal to win the game.
Arda Turan was Atlético’s most active player in the first half and could have given his side the lead in the opening minutes. He missed one-on-one with Betis goalkeeper Adrián after a nice pass by Falcao and later saw how Adrián again got a hand to his attempt from outside the box.
The ‘keeper also denied Gabi and later again blocked a shot by Arda, as Atleti started off strongly. Despite the saves, Adrián San Miguel, who replaced first choice Casto, looked dangerous on crosses coming in from the side and Atleti targeted the 26-year old with their set pieces.
Betis’ three centre midfielders gained control over the pace of the game as the first half progressed, but the visitors weren’t able to get a shot off towards Thibaut Courtois’ goal. Simeone’s defence was solid and managed another shutout, even with back up Domingo Cisma filling in at left back. The Spaniard replaced the suspended Filipe Luís while new signing Emiliano Insúa is recovering from a muscle injury.
Cholo did have Radamel Falcao back at his disposal, but the Colombian super striker was effectively shut down by Betis’ centre back duo of Amaya and Perquis, and Atleti as a whole seemed to lack inspiration to break down Pepe Mel’s defence.
That changed completely when Simeone introduced Diego Costa.
The Brazilian was rested but eventually replaced the disappointing Adrián López and immediately brought a fire to the team. Costa, who was under the scrutiny of Betis players but received praise from coach Pepe Mel, certainly lit a fire under Verdiblancos’ emotions on Sunday night as well.
Just a few minutes after being introduced, Diego Costa scored the solitary goal of the match when he profited from a mistake by Adrián, who misjudged a corner kick.
Costa then picked up a yellow card for a nasty foul on Rubén Pérez. A moment later he again appeared to bring down Cañas hard, but Undiano Mallenco waved play on and instead booked Pérez for a harsh foul on substitute ‘Cebolla’ Rodríguez. A brawl ensued with Betis players claiming a second card for Costa while the Rojiblancos were upset with the dangerous challenge on their Uruguayan teammate’s legs.
Rubén Pérez was the player who also came closest to scoring for Betis with a scorcher from long range, but the remainder of the game the visiting side seemed to be more focussed on hurting Diego Costa than they were on scoring an equalizer. They went from shouting in his face to pulling his ear, but the low point was reached when Amaya disgracefully spat in the striker’s face. Costa managed to keep his calm and stepped off the pitch the winner as Atleti managed to hold on to their 1-0 lead.
Line-up: Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godín, Cisma; Koke, Gabi, Mario, Arda (“65 Cristian Rodríguez); Adrián (“56 Diego Costa) and Falcao (“80 Raúl García).
Goals: 1-0 Diego Costa (“62)