the republic logo

Atletico beats Elche 2-0 to extend Spanish league lead before Champions League semis

Share/Save/Bookmark

MADRID — Atletico Madrid moved one step closer to its first Spanish league title in 18 years with a 2-0 win over Elche on Friday, and now turns its attention to receiving Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals.

Atletico's eighth straight win in the league kept it in control of its destiny and needing three wins in the final four rounds to claim its first league title since 1996.

Defender Miranda scored the opening goal at Vicente Calderon Stadium in the 72nd minute when he floated his header just inside the upright before Diego Costa added a penalty he had earned in stoppage time for his 27th league goal of the season.

Atletico needed goalkeeper Courtois Thibaut to make successive saves around the half-hour mark, and didn't lose its composure after David Villa had a penalty saved in the 51st.

Atletico provisionally extended its lead over Real Madrid to six points, with Barcelona another point behind.

Madrid won't play Valladolid until May 7 as it rests after winning the Copa del Rey title and prepares to host Bayern Munich on Wednesday in the other Champions League semifinal.

Barcelona hosts Athletic Bilbao on Sunday needing to rebound from losing in the Copa del Rey final and keep alive its dwindling hopes of defending its league title.

Regardless of the two powerhouses' results, Atletico can break their combined nine-year hold on the league crown by winning three of its four remaining games at Valencia and Levante, then home against Malaga, before the season finale at Barcelona.

PHOTO: Atletico's Miranda, center, scores his goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Atletico de Madrid and Elche at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, Friday, April 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Gabriel Pecot)
Atletico's Miranda, center, scores his goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Atletico de Madrid and Elche at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, Friday, April 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Gabriel Pecot)

"All the games here on in are going to be tough," said Atletico coach Diego Simeone. "We have made it through one 'final' and have four to go. I don't even want to think that winning three will be enough. All our effort and work make us focus on the four games left, and three are away from home.

"Now we need to recover the best we can for Chelsea, a game that is very important for us, our fans and the history of the club."

Diego Costa showed no signs of the deep cut in his left shin he received last week when he slammed into the goal post while scoring at Getafe, with the Brazilian striker causing Elche's defense trouble from the start.

He earned a penalty when fouled from behind by Ionut Sapunaru, who was sent off with his second yellow card, giving Diego Costa the chance to pull within one goal of Cristiano Ronaldo's league-leading tally of 28 goals for Madrid this campaign.

Courtois did his part by making saves to deny Javi Marquez and Sapunaru, again proving his major contribution to Atletico's championship bid.

Simeone sent on midfielders Raul Garcia and Jose Sosa early in the second half, and both set up scoring opportunities.

Raul was fouled to produce a penalty, only for Villa to have his spot kick smothered by goalie Manuel Herrera before he was replaced by Sosa.

Sosa picked out Miranda at the far post for him to lift his corner kick into the side of the net and set Atletico on its way.

"It was a set piece we had worked on," said Miranda, the latest role player to step up at big moments and score key goals for Atletico. "We know how to dig down when we have to. We have four finals left and we have to win them."

Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!

All comments are moderated before posting. Your email address must be verified with Disqus in order for your comment to appear.
View our commenting guidelines and FAQ's here.

Story copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Feedback, Corrections and Other Requests: AP welcomes feedback and comments from readers. Send an email to info@ap.org and it will be forwarded to the appropriate editor or reporter.


We also have more stories about:
(click the phrases to see a list)

Category:

Follow The Republic:

All content copyright ©2014 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Privacy policy.