La Liga

Falcao, Atletico defeat Espanyol

Atlético Madrid Radamel Falcao
Atletico Madrid's Radamel Falcao scored the game-winning goal against Espanyol.
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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.

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 dismissed, but Espanyol failed to utilize its advantage.

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 sent off 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.


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It was Espanyol's first loss in six games and just its second in 12 rounds since the arrival of coach Javier Aguirre.

Also, Manucho's late winner gave Valladolid a 2-1 victory at Rayo Vallecano in an entertaining match in which Rayo defender Jordi Amat scored at both ends.

Striker Iago Aspas, meanwhile, scored one goal and set up another to lead to Celta Vigo a 2-1 victory over Granada, giving coach Abel Resino a winning debut.

In a meeting between the Spanish league's two quiet surprises this season, the promoted Valladolid got the better of its fellow minnow thanks to an individual effort by midfielder Alberto Bueno.

Valladolid went close when midfielder Lluis Sastre hit the bar just before halftime and went ahead in the 72nd by Amat heading a free kick into his own net while trying to clear the ball.

Less than a minute later, however, Amat equalized for the hosts with a long-range lob that goalkeeper Dani Hernandez was able to get his fingertips on but failed to keep the ball out of his net.

Bueno set up Valladolid's 80th-minute winner when he stole the ball, dribbled forward to draw in both the goalkeeper and the last defender, before sliding the ball for Manucho to finish off the counterattack.


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Valladolid broke a four-game winless run and moved into 11th place. Rayo stayed in seventh after losing for the first time in five home matches.

''Rayo is a great team and is having an excellent season,'' said Valladolid coach Miroslav Djukic. ''It was a tough blow for us when they drew level, but my team overcame it and played a very complete match.''

At Balaidos Stadium, Aspas pounced on a loose ball and chipped it over onrushing goalkeeper Antonio ''Tono'' Rodriguez to open in the 24th with his ninth goal this season and first in seven games.

Granada striker Odion Ighalo hit right back for the visitors four minutes later by acrobatically sweeping Allan Nyom's cross into the net, but Aspas flicked on a pass for Mario Bermejo to score in the 81st and earn the three points.

Celta's first win in seven rounds lifted it to within two points of safety. Resino took over from the fired Paco Herrera earlier this week.

Later, Malaga visits Real Betis.

On Saturday, it was: Barcelona 2, Sevilla 1; Deportivo La Coruna 1, Real Madrid 2; Real Zaragoza 2, Valencia 2; and Mallorca 1, Getafe 3. Real Sociedad won 3-1 at Athletic Bilbao on Friday. Levante hosts Osasuna on Monday.

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