MADRID: Diego Costa made up for the disappointment of his non-inclusion in the Spain squad by scoring twice as Atletico Madrid made it eight wins from eight league games with a 2-1 victory over Celta Vigo.
The Brazilian-born striker was not included in Vicente del Bosque’s squad on Friday as the paperwork that will make him eligible for the world champions was not completed in time.
However, he again made his case for a future call up with another two strikes to take him top of the La Liga scoring charts with 10 goals, two ahead of Lionel Messi.
It could have been even better for Costa had he not seen a first-half penalty saved by Yoel Rodriguez.
He made amends just before half-time by tapping home from Filipe Luis’ cross and then drove home a second 17 minutes after the break.
Nolito’s cute finish 19 minutes from time made it a nervy finish for Diego Simeone’s men, but they held on to move level with Barcelona on 24 points at the top of the table, five points ahead of neighbours Real Madrid. And Simeone acknowledged that his side had paid towards the end for not killing the game off.
“The first-half was very complete, but we just needed the goal,” he said.
“With complete territorial dominance and when you are playing well offensively the important thing is to finish your chances.
“We didn’t do that and therefore we found ourselves in difficulty near the end.”
The Argentine denied that his side had suffered physically in the final quarter after two demanding games against Real Madrid and Porto in the past week and instead gave credit to Celta for their revival towards the end.
“It wasn’t a physical dip, but the fact the opponent grew into the game. It is a normal situation.
“We always had the threat of the counter-attack, but it Celta’s good play that forced us back.”
Had it not been for Yoel in the Celta goal Atletico would have been well ahead by the interval as they overwhelmed the visitors in the opening 45 minutes.
David Villa ought to have scored when played clean through on goal by Costa, but Yoel stood up well to block from the Spanish international.
Costa then had a golden chance to open his account for the day when Luis was chopped down by David Costas, but again Yoel prevailed as he dived low to his left to save the spot-kick.
The breakthrough did finally come three minutes before the break when another galloping run from Luis took him to the by-line and he squared for Costa to bundle home from barely a yard out.