Atletico lead league for first time in season
By Paul Logothetis, AP
February 4, 2014, 8:15 am TWN
MADRID--Atletico Madrid took full advantage of Barcelona's rare slip-up as it pummeled Real Sociedad 4-0 on Sunday to take sole possession of the lead in the Spanish league for the first time this season.
David Villa, Diego Costa, Miranda, and the newly arrived Diego scored the goals that put Atletico clear at the top of the standings, having shared the lead with Barcelona for much of the campaign.
Atletico holds a three point advantage over Barcelona and Real Madrid after Athletic Bilbao rallied to draw 1-1 against Madrid, which finished without Cristiano Ronaldo after he was red carded.
Substitute Ibai Gomez's volley canceled out Jese Rodriguez's opener for Madrid, which played the final 15 minutes a man down after Ronaldo was sent off for swiping his hand across Carlos Gurpegi's face following a shove from his opponent. The contact seemed light, but Gurpegi fell to the ground as if he'd been hit hard.
Atletico honored former player and coach Luis Aragones before the match and fed off the emotion at the Vicente Calderon Stadium to boost its attempt to break the Barcelona-Madrid monopoly with a first championship since 1996.
Barcelona lost 3-2 to Valencia on Saturday, and Atletico did not waste the opportunity to go top by itself for the first time since that championship-winning season. Not since Valencia's league title a decade ago has a club other than the big two won the Spanish league.
Diego Costa was lively from the start, and the Brazilian-born Spain striker fed Villa inside the box in the 38th minute to finish off a quick break by scoring the opener.
Villa sustained a leg injury moments later and had to be replaced by Raul Garcia.
With the home fans chanting Aragones' name throughout, Atletico came alive in the second half as Garcia found Diego Costa racing free between defenders in the 72nd and the forward beat goalkeeper Claudio Bravo with a right-footed shot for his 20th league goal of the season.
Two minutes later, Miranda headed home a corner kick out of Bravo's reach for 3-0 before Diego, who came on in the 58th for his first appearance in his return to the club, marked his return to Atletico by dribbling into the box to unleash a rising shot into goal with three minutes remaining.