A depleted Atletico Madrid stretched their lead over Capital City rivals Real to four points after seeing off Espanyol 1-0 in an ill-tempered affair at the Estadio Vicente Calderon that saw no fewer than eleven bookings and one red card.
A 21st goal in 22 league games from the penalty spot from the prolific Falcao paved the way for the victory after Hector Moreno chopped down Diego Costa in the box. It was a stone-wall penalty and as the last line of defence, Moreno was fortunate to receive just a yellow card. Falcao made no mistake to put the hosts on their way to maintaining their incredible 100 per cent home record this season.
Atletico were reduced to 10 men on the stroke of half-time after Gabi was handed a second yellow card for a challenge on Christian Stuani but even in their compromised form the home side could have added to their goal count and were worthy victors against a negative Espanyol.
With Diego Simeone’s men going into the match with 13 straight league victories, it always looked a tough task for Espanyol despite their recent run of five wins in their last six matches. And it should have been even more difficult for the visitors with Atletico early shout for a penalty was waved away as Filipe Luis looked to have been brought down in the box 12 minutes in.
The home side continued to press and minutes later again felt aggrieved when Kiko Casilla charged out of his area and brought down Costa, only for the yellow card to be brandished. Casilla was again the centre of attention but this time for the medical team after a nasty clash of heads with Falcao left him with a gash in his lip that required the staple gun.
Falcao was close to opening the scoring when João Miranda’s scuffed shot bounced off his chest a few yards out but five minutes later he had his chance from the penalty spot, sending Casilla the wrong way after Moreno brought down Costa.
Atletico spurned two more good chances just before the break, Falcao close to getting on the end of Koke’s corner before a last-ditch defending header from Victor Sanchez blocked Costa’s goal-bound shot.
And just before the break, Gabi received his marching orders for a clumsy challenge on Stuani after earlier being booked for his part in a midfield melee that also saw Tiago and Stuani booked.
Despite having fewer men in the second half, Atletico continued to dominate possession and chances. Falcao played in Costa down the right and only good defending from Diego Colotto prevented Tiago netting a second. Falcao was close to finding the scoresheet again after ghosting past the last defensive player and only a heavy touch allowed Casilla to save at his feet.
Such was Espanyol’s lack of cutting edge that even against Simeone’s 10 men they did not register their first shot on target until the 82nd minute. Falcao should have put the game to bed a minute from time when clean through on goal but Casilla did well to save his attempted chip.
Victory means that Atletico have yet to drop a point at home this season with eight successive clean sheets. Espanyol stay 13th in the table, a point behind Sevilla.
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