MADRID: Diego Costa, the Brazilian-born striker who could be leading Spain’s attack at next year’s World Cup finals, brought that dream a giant step closer by scoring the goal with which Atletico Madrid beat Real in the capital derby.
Costa’s 11th-minute strike in the Estadio Bernabeu earned Atletico a club record seventh successive win since the start of the league season, and added to the pressure on Real coach Carlo Ancelotti.
The Italian has been experimenting in vain from week to week to come up with a secure line-up with more questions being asked every week about the wisdom of the decision to sell Germany playmaker Mesut Ozil to Arsenal on transfer deadline day.
Costa has been called up twice for Brazil for friendly matches but has lived in Spain since he was 16 and the Spanish federation has applied to world governing body FIFA for his international status to be altered.
That would delight Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque who has lacked a regular striker since David Villa broke a leg in the 2011 Club World Cup.
Atletico’s victory ended a run of 23 league derbies without a win and followed up their 2-1 King’s Cup final victory after extra time at the same venue last May.
Costa took his tally for the season to eight league goals when he broke away to score in the 11th minute, and Atletico could have avoided a nervy finale by putting away some of the clear chances they created.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti brought on Gareth Bale for his home debut in the second half but without appreciable effect
Diego Simeone’s side joined Barcelona at the top of the table with a maximum 21 points from seven games but were second on goal difference. Real stayed third with 16 points.
Ancelotti conceded: “We have to act after this with a better attitude and clearer ideas. We have to find a quick solution.”
Earlier, Barcelona created a club record start to a league campaign with a 2-0 victory at promoted Almeria.
World Player of the Year Lionel Messi struck the opener after 21 minutes with a superb solo effort after exchanging passes with Pedro but was forced to leave the pitch soon after with a hamstring problem. Adriano scored the second goal to leave Almeria still without a win.
Messi, who will miss at least the Champions League tie against Celtic, has scored 223 goals in the Spanish league which has brought him level with the total of old Barcelona hero Cesar Rodriguez – albeit Cesar’s goals were scored not only for Barcelona but also for Granada, Elche and Cultural Leonesa.
Only four other players have scored more goals in the history of La Liga: Bilbao’s Telmo Zarra 251, Real and Atletico Madrid’s Hugo Sanchez 234, Real Madrid’s Raul Gonzalez 228 and Real Madrid’s Alfredo Di Stefano 227.
Messi’s goal was also his 324th in competitive football, one more than old Real Madrid icon Raul. The difference is that Raul played 741 games and the remarkable Messi, so far, had played ‘only’ 388.
At the present rate he will soon overtake the all-time one-club leader, Zarra, who scored 335 in competitive football only for Athletic Bilbao.