Soccer

Costa nets two more goals, Atletico Madrid downs Levante

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The Canadian Press
12/21/2013 2:37:57 PM
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BARCELONA, Spain -- Diego Costa scored his Spanish league-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 its game at Getafe on Sunday, when the defending champion will be without the injured Lionel Messi, Xavi Herandez, 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 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 goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was called into action to repel David Barral's hard strike in the 10th, after which he railed at his defence.

His teammates promptly responded by pushing Levante into its area, and the equalizer 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 wasn't done and Pedro Rios made it 2-2 in the 56th 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 by stepping up to convert a penalty after Juanfran Torres was fouled by Ruben Garcia on the edge of the box.

"It was tough. Levante is the best team that has come through the Calderon this season," Juanfran said.

Levante finished with 10 men after Juanfran Garcia was shown a red card in the 90th after colliding with Filipe Luis while awaiting a corner kick.

Also, 10-man Sevilla won 2-1 at Villarreal as it rebounded from its humbling exit from the Copa del Rey with a fourth win in five rounds, while Almeria won 1-0 to keep Real Betis bottom of the table and winless in 10 league matches.

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 its second loss at El Madrigal Stadium this season.

Rakitic found defender Juan "Cala" Torres with a long pass to head Sevilla in front in the 24th. Striker Carlos Bacca was denied by the woodwork before he scored his eighth league goal from a pass by Rakitic in the 71st.

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.

Villarrreal 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.

"This victory is important beyond our elimination from the Copa, but it is still just another step forward," Sevilla coach Unai Emery said. "It's true we had a painful start to the season. The team is settling down and this win will boost our confidence."

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.

Almeria goalie Esteban Suarez did the rest, making several saves to further infuriate Betis' disgruntled fans.

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.

Later, Real Sociedad took its winning streak into Granada.

Diego Costa (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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