La Liga

Atletico takes down Real Sociedad

TO THE TOP
Atletico Madrid went top of the La Liga table on Sunday with their win over Sociedad.
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MADRID (AP)

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 La Liga for the first time this season.

David Villa, Diego Costa, Miranda, and the newly arrived Diego scored the goals that put Atletico three points clear at the top of the standings, having shared the lead with Barcelona for much of the campaign.

Real Madrid can remain one point behind Atletico, and leapfrog Barcelona into second, with a victory at Athletic Bilbao later Sunday.

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.

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 had come on in the 58th, marked his return to Atletico by dribbling into the box to unleash a rising shot into goal with three minutes remaining.

Diego, who helped Atletico win the Europa League two seasons ago, joined on loan from Wolfsburg on Friday.

Atletico leads with 57 points, Barcelona has 54 points, and Madrid has 53.

Earlier Sunday, Cristian Herrera's second-half goal gave Elche a 1-0 victory against Almeria to lift the club above its relegation adversary, while Ruben Castro scored two goals as last-placed Real Betis beat Espanyol 2-0 to end a four-game losing streak.

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Elche improved to 24 points, two more than Almeria which is 17th. Valladolid is 18th with 20, Rayo Vallecano has 17 and Betis 14.

Herrera was well placed to redirect Javi Marquez's shot for the 58th-minute winner at the Manuel Martinez Valero Stadium. So far this season Almeria has conceded a league-high 27 goals in the second half.

Elche finished with 10 men after Damian Suarez was shown a second yellow card in the 90th.

Castro was also in the right place for Betis in the 72nd to fire home Lolo Reyes' initial shot after it came off the post straight to him.

Espanyol forward Christian Stuani wasted a chance in the 82nd and Castro put the game away before stoppage time, firing a quick shot between defenders and past goalkeeper Francisco Casilla at the near post.

All games held a minute's silence in honor of Aragones, the former Spain coach who died on Saturday at age 75.

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