Atletico Madrid won today's Spanish Football match at home against Elche CF 2-0, maintaining their reign atop the table in La Liga another week.
The Vicente Calderon was packed on a beautiful spring day but so was relegation-threatened Elche's defense. The hosts could not find a way in despite some nice attacks off of the majority of possession the first half. As the game progressed the visitors grew in confidence seeing their tactics were working. In fact, it was Thibaut Courtois who needed to make two great saves to keep the score line at nil-nil by halftime. One was a surprise long range shot that skimmed the turf just ahead of the goalkeeper's dive and the other a close-in header Courtois had to save twice before clearing the danger away.
The second half had Atletico starter Raul Garcia come in as a substitute and he had an immediate impact. At the 49th minute the ref awarded a penalty for a foul by Romanian defender Cristian Sapunaru on Garcia, and David Villa was tapped to take it. The striker shot to his right but too far in from the post and the Elche keeper, Manu Herrera, easily parried the shot.
Continuing the concept of rotating starters to keep them fresh for the upcoming Champions League clash against Chelsea, Koke was replaced by Diego at the 57th minute, an even trade off of midfielders and Villa came out at the 61st for Jose Sosa.
At the 63rd Diego Costa, receiving his usual physical punishment received a ball on a breakaway and was summarily fouled hard twice, by two successive players since the first foul did not drop him. Costa reacted to the second and confronted the Elche player only to have the entire Elche team come after him. Once order was restored the ref gave both Costa and the Elche counterpart yellow cards.
As the game progressed the hosts and their fans became restless and the visitors grew in stature and resolve. But at the 71st minute a perfect Atletico corner kick found Brazilian defender Joao Miranda who obliged with a perfect header for the game's first goal. Atletico 1, Elche 0.
At the 90th minute Costa broke into the box for the second time in as many minutes and this time Sapunaru decided not to risk another Herrera save and both tripped and pushed Costa to the ground. The ensuing penalty was taken by the Brazilian striker for the final score.
With Real Madrid's game against Valladolid postponed and Barcelona playing Sunday, Atletico can enjoy another week atop the table for a little longer and continue to hope their dream season turns out as coach Diego Simeone had only fantasized it could earlier in the year.