Falcao gives Atletico 1-0 victory over Espanyol
By Joseph Wilson ,APBARCELONA -- Radamel Falcao scored his 21st goal in the Spanish league this season to give 10-man Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win over Espanyol on Sunday, ensuring the team stays in second place before its Copa del Rey semifinal.
February 26, 2013, 12:15 am TWN
Falcao slotted a spot kick into the lower left corner of the net in the 37th minute at Vicente Calderon Stadium after one of several well-worked moves with strike partner Diego Costa.
Atletico played the entire second half a man down after midfielder Gabi Fernandez was sent off, but Espanyol failed to utilize its advantage.
Elsewhere, Real Betis rolled over Malaga 3-0, Valladolid won 2-1 at Rayo Vallecano, and Celta Vigo beat Granada 2-1 in the debut of coach Abel Resino.
Atletico bounced back from the end of its Europa League title defense on Thursday in which it lost to Rubin Kazan with a 13th win in as many home games in the league this campaign.
The victory kept Atletico 12 points behind Barcelona and maintained its four-point gap over Real Madrid. It visits Sevilla on Wednesday in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal with a 2-1 lead.
Falcao and Brazilian forward Diego Costa posed problems for Espanyol's defense all game. Diego Costa's pressure, physical presence and orchestrated play with Falcao proved the difference in the contest that featured more fouls than scoring chances.
Gabi was dismissed in first-half injury time when he received his second booking for a low tackle on Joan Capdevila.
Despite playing with a numerical disadvantage, Atletico still dictated the pace of the match and controlled the ball more than the hapless Espanyol.
It was Espanyol's first loss in six games and just its second in 12 rounds since the arrival of coach Javier Aguirre.
In Seville, midfielder Benat Etxebarria contributed to all three of Betis' goals as it got its first win in six weeks while spoiling Malaga's five-game undefeated streak.