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Pelegrin steals the ball off Costa

Atletico Madrid 2 Elche 0

Who needed the points more? At the mighty Vicente Calderon stadium on Friday night arguably Atletico did to stay top of La Liga from Real Madrid and Barcelona, but lowly Elche gave the Rojiblancos a fright and nearly earned a hugely welcome point, both goals coming late in the game.

Solid, dependable Peligrin, star of last year was still deputisng in the centre of defence for Lomban, but this time the Romanian Sapuranu had a rare start at left back where captain Albacar is still unfit. Ever-present all season Ruben Perez on loan from Atletico was ineligible to play, deputised in midfield by another one of last season’s heroes Rivera.

Alongside him in midfield was Carlos Sanchez, Javi Marquez and Carles Gil, with Coro supporting Christian Herrera up front. For Atletico David Villa and Deigo Costa started, a striking combination which has taken Athletico to the top of both the Spanish League and Europe. Manager Diego Simeone is taking on ex-Real manager Jose Mourinho and Chelsea on Tuesday in the Champions League semi-finals.

Only five minutes had gone when Elche goalkeeper Herrera hurtled off his line to pluck the ball off Costa’s foot following a superb through ball, but steadily Elche settled and came back with a Sanchez long shot that was pushed around the post.

From the resultant corner the tall Courtois in the Athetico goal saved Peligrin’s firm header at the second attempt. Just before half-time a cross from the Atletico right grazed Costa’s forehead, coming down for Sosa to put it just wide, the score 0 – 0 at half time.

Only five minutes into the second half and from a long cross into the Elche box Sapuranu was adjudged to have hauled down Costa and was booked. Villa stepped up to take the penalty, but Herrera was on his toes to push away the striker’s soft low shot. It was beginning to look like this might not be Atletico’s day as the expectant home crowd roared on their heroes. Elche bookings began when Coro was booked for a foot-up challenge, and as Rivera tripped Costa and was rightly yellow-carded everyone got excited and tempers flared, Peligrin then following in the book. As usual Elche coach Fran Escriba began to ring the changes, firstly Fidel on for the ineffective Herrera up front, then Boakye for Javi Marquez and finally Aaron replacing Carles Gil.

With 20 minutes left and the worried crowd urging the Rojiblancos on, an innocent-looking long corner found the head of defender Miranda.

His long, looping header eluded everyone into the far corner of Herrera’s net, 1 – 0. Elche were not finished though as Carlos Sanchez, now playing well at last drove the Franjiverdes forward in search of the equaliser. Two minutes from time it was all over as Sapuranu chased Costa into the area and nudged him, the Romanian booked for his second foul, and rightly sent off – not for the first time this season.

This time Diego scored the penalty himself, the final result 2 – 0 an unfair reflection of the match, which left Elche fifth from bottom.

Rivals Osasuna and Getafe both drew, Osasuna now level with Elche. Getafe are three points behind, with Valladolid equal, but who are away to Real Madrid on Wednesday. Below third-bottom Getafe are Almeria two points behind with Real Betis bottom on 22 points.

The Franjiverdes’s home game next Friday against mid-table Levante will be vitally important – after 26 years away it would be cruel for Elche to be relegated in their first season back.

Mucho Elche!

Photo: www.elchecf.es

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/43364/

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