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MADRID: Atletico Manager Diego Simeone was delighted with the work-rate shown by his side as they held on for a 1-0 win over Espanyol despite playing 45 minutes with 10 men.
Radamel Falcao’s 38th minute penalty proved enough to reduce to gap to Barcelona at the top of the table back to 12 points, but Atleti were forced to do it the hard way after captain Gabi received a soft second yellow card in the final action of the first-half.
“Once more I have to highlight how happy I am with the team’s response,” Simeone told reporters.
“It was a great collective effort. To hold on for 45 minutes is a long time against a team like Espanyol who arrived in such a rich vein of form.
“In the second-half we had a number of chances in front of goal and could have ended with a more comprehensive result.”
Indeed Atleti continued to control proceedings after the break and barely allowed Espanyol a chance despite their numerical disadvantage as they extended their run without conceding a goal at home in the league to eight games.
Simeone was particularly proud of his team’s determination and attitude as many of same players had also been involved when they were dumped out of the Europa League against Rubin Kazan in Russia on Thursday night.
“We have always had the intention to be competitive in every competition.
“Sometimes we were better, sometimes worse, but I think the fans always value a devoted team.
“Today the team was devoted and the response of the fans was great. The team transmitted what has historically been the virtues of this club. An intense, quick and devoted side.”
Victory also stretched Atleti’s advantage over city rivals Real Madrid in second place to four points, whilst Espanyol’s first defeat in six games means they remain in 13th.
Elsewhere Real Betis moved to within three points of Malaga in fourth as they beat their Andalusian rivals 3-0 at the Benito Villamarin.
All the goals came in the first-half as Jorge Molina, Mario and Dorian Pabon were on target, whilst Molina also missed a penalty before the break.
At the bottom there was a big win for Celta Vigo in Abel Resino’s first game in charge as Mario Bermejo’s second-half winner handed them a 2-1 win over Granada.
The Galicians are now just two points off safety, whilst Granada themselves remain just three points off the relegation zone.
And Valladolid also eased any fears they might have had over relegation after four games without a victory as they won 2-1 at Rayo Vallecano to move up to 11th. -- AFP