Liga - Atletico reclaim top spot with hard-fought win

La Liga, San Mames - Athletic Bilbao 1 (Muniain 6) Atletico Madrid 2 (Costa 22, Koke 55)

Liga - Atletico reclaim top spot with hard-fought win

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El delantero del Atlético de Madrid Diego Costa (i) dispara a puerta para marcar el gol del 1-1 ante el defensa del Athletic Club

Atletico Madrid stayed on course for an unlikely Spanish title triumph when they battled back from a goal down to secure a 2-1 win at fourth-placed Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on Saturday.

The hard-fought victory at the San Mames, only a second home defeat for Bilbao this season, restored Atletico's one-point advantage over champions Barcelona, who won 1-0 at Espanyol in the earlier kick-off thanks to a Lionel Messi penalty.

Atletico have 76 points with seven games left, while Barca, who host the Madrid club in their Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday, are on 75.

Atletico have about a fifth of the resources of wealthy Barca and Real Madrid but under inspirational coach Diego Simeone they are mounting the first genuine challenge to the dominance of Spain's big two since Valencia won the title 10 years ago.

They fell behind in the sixth minute at the San Mames when Bilbao's Iker Muniain raced clear and sent a brilliant lobbed effort over goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois into the net.

Diego Costa levelled in the 22nd when Koke intercepted a stray pass in midfield and sent the Brazil-born forward clear to score past Gorka Iraizoz before Koke grabbed the winner 10 minutes after halftime when he nodded in a Filipe Luis centre.

Bilbao, who have 56 points and are on course for a place in Champions League qualifying, pressed hard for an equaliser and Courtois had to be at his athletic best to keep out an Aritz Aduriz header.

Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte earned a second yellow card for felling Diego Costa five minutes from time.

"They had a lot to play for like us and it was a very intense match," Koke said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Canal Plus.

"Everything is hurting right now but we have two days to rest and think about the Champions League."

Fifth-placed Sevilla's five-match winning run came to an end when they lost 1-0 at Celta Vigo, leaving them six points behind Bilbao and a point ahead of Real Sociedad, who visit Osasuna on Sunday, and two in front of Villarreal who host Elche.

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