Atletico flaunt title credentials with Bilbao win
By Iain Rogers
MADRID (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid's challenge to the domestic dominance of wealthy Barcelona and Real Madrid showed no sign of flagging when David Villa and Diego Costa struck in a 2-0 home win over Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on Sunday.
The victory at a festive Calderon, Atletico's 11th in 12 matches this season, trimmed the gap to unbeaten leaders Barca back to one point and restored their five-point advantage over city rivals Real in third.
Champions Barca, 1-0 winners over Espanyol in Friday's Catalan derby, have 34 points, with Atletico on 33 and Real, who beat Rayo Vallecano 3-2, on 28.
Villa, who joined Atletico from Barca in the close season, opened the scoring in the 33rd minute with a well-taken volley and Costa raced on to a Koke through ball seven minutes later and finished clinically past Bilbao goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz.
It was the in-form Brazil-born forward's 13th La Liga goal of the campaign, putting him level at the top of the scoring chart with Real's Portugal international Cristiano Ronaldo.
Bilbao, who did not manage a single shot on target, played the final 10 minutes with 10 men after substitute defender Erik Moran picked up two bookings and the Basque club stayed fifth on 20 points.
Valencia were the last team apart from Barca or Real to win La Liga back in 2004. Only Villarreal have broken the stranglehold of the world's richest clubs by income on the top two places since, coming second behind Real and ahead of third-placed Barca in 2008.
Atletico have less than a quarter of the annual budget of Real and Barca and a limited squad but have been transformed into genuine title contenders by Argentine coach Diego Simeone since he took over at the end of 2011. Continued...