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The burgeoning legend of Atlético's Diego Costa

Atlético beat Betis with a goal from the Brazilian, and are 9 points behind Barcelona and 7 ahead of Madrid.

The burgeoning legend of Atlético's Diego Costa

Into a boring game came Diego Costa. The effect was similar to going from the muzak of the doctor's waiting room to a heavy metal concert. The Brazilian, as indispensable to this Atleti as anyone not called Falcao or Simeone, took five minutes to score, 10 to nearly earn himself a straight red for a heavy challenge on Rubén Pérez (a yellow in the end) and only a second to turn the encounter into a flurry of knocks, runs, chances, bust-ups, talent and generalised chaos. That's Costa for you. By the end Atleti had won a game that was meandering soporifically to a 0-0 bore draw. He's venerated in the Calderón, hated outside it; the legend of Diego Costa continues to grow.

The most exciting thing that had happened before the football version of the Tasmanian devil arrived was the announcement of the starting line-ups. For Atleti, Falcao was back and Simeone gave Mario Suárez the starting spot he'd lost to Tiago, maybe celebrating his unexpected call up for the national team. Cisma was there, Filipe and Insua out. For Betis, Mel started with recent signing Pabón, who racked up an inordinate amount of pointless running. He'll be better when he calms down.

The joy of seeing their star back pushed Atleti on for the first 10 minutes. These charges have given the team a number of victories this year, but unfortunately for Simeone's lot Adrián was inspired. Adrián the Betis keeper, not the Atlético striker, who is a shadow of his former self. After a minute and a quarter Arda found himself one on one against the Betis keeper, but the ball didn't quite fall for him and his subtle shot was palmed away. After nine minutes the Turk repeated himself, as did the keeper, sending the ball out for a corner. Adrián completed his hat-trick of saves in the tenth minute with a diving catch from a Gabi strike.

Having recovered from the initial shock Betis turned the match into an even affair, with little flair. Beñat, stuck between Mario and Gabi was unable to take control, though Rubén Castro had his chance after a Godin error looking for offside. Juanfran, in extremis, saved the day. And nothing more, until in the 56th minute Diego Costa came on for The Striker (Formerly Known As Adrián).

After a chance which Koke blazed over, Diego Costa scored in the 61st minute, from a corner which wouldn't have been if not for the irrational confidence in himself that Falcao has, who shot from what might as well have been his own house, and forced Adrián to stretch and put the ball behind. Koke put the ball in and the Betis keeper, put off by Miranda, made his only mistake and failed to clear the ball. Diego Costa made mincemeat of Beñat to head home at the far post.

The rest of the match was ugly. Scorer Costa trod nastily on Rubén Pérez' calf and Betis forgot to try and fight back (they had no shots after the 64th minute), entirely focused as they were on the war with the Brazilian. They went looking for a red card, rather than the equaliser. Amaya sought revenge for the debts from the Cup, when Costa thanked him for the mistake that gave him a goal, but he did it in cowardly fashion, disgustingly spitting in the Brazilian's face. A sad end to the match for a happy Atlético, who have racked up 19 wins out of 19 at home this season, and are nine points behind Barcelona and seven ahead of Madrid. That man, Diego Costa, made it possible.

Estadísticas AS.com