Diego Costa

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La Liga: Costa scores, sent off (video); Atleti still chasing Barca

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Diego Costa was at his best – and worst – on Saturday when the Atletico Madrid striker was sent off after celebrating a goal that helped to beat Getafe 2-0 in his second match back at the club.

Costa already had one booking for elbowing a Getafe player when he tapped in Atletico’s second goal in the 68th minute. But instead of embracing his teammates, he ran around the net and to the edge of the stands where he was hugged by fans, earning him a second booking.

Far from reproaching the 29-year-old Costa, Atletico coach Diego Simeone praised the player he hopes can lead the team to the same heights they reached in 2013 and 2014, when they won the Copa del Rey followed by the Spanish league title.

“Costa gives us intensity and power, and he inspires fear. You can feel it and see it,” Simeone said. “We have known him for a long time. We know how he plays and that he always pushes the limits. His courage and passion to fight for every ball is transmitted in each play.”

Second-place Atletico is within six points of Liga leader Barcelona, which hosts Levante on Sunday.

Despite not having played a competitive match since June, Costa has shown no rust from his long layoff while waiting for Atletico’s yearlong ban on new players to expire at the start of January.

The goal was Costa’s second in as many appearances since making his return to Atletico from Chelsea. He scored as a substitute on Wednesday in a 4-0 victory at Lleida in the Copa del Rey’s round of 16.

Costa started Saturday’s match by curling a shot onto the top of the net and setting up Antoine Griezmann before the France forward assisted Angel Correa for the hosts’ opener in the 18th.

Besides providing added punch to Atletico’s attack, Costa also showed the same knack for rattling rivals with his aggressive attitude and physical play.

The Brazilian-born Spain striker had to be separated from Getafe’s Juan Cala when the two exchanged words after the halftime whistle, and he was booked for elbowing Dakonam Djene when they contested a ball in the 62nd.

Then came Costa’s goal, a cool side-footed shot to slot Sime Vrsaljko’s low cross just into the post, followed by his excessive celebration.

“(Costa) is contagious, and he showed all that he is, scoring a goal and getting sent off,” Atletico midfielder Gabi Fernandez said. “Costa doesn’t have to adapt to us, he came ready to play. That’s why we wanted him.”

The derby at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium was a bad-tempered match that featured 10 total bookings.

Costa’s sending-off means he will miss next round’s trip to Eibar.

Costa helped Chelsea win the English Premier league title last season before he fell out of favor with coach Antonio Conte.

Coach Marcelino Garcia Toral returned to Valencia’s sideline to oversee its first win in three rounds, a 2-1 comeback at home over Girona.

Valencia remained in third place, two points behind Atletico and six ahead of Real Madrid, which has two games in hand.

Garcia Toral missed Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Las Palmas in the Copa del Rey while he recovered from a car accident reportedly caused when his car hit a wild boar on Dec. 23.

The Valencia manager wore a neck brace under his coat for Saturday’s match, when Dani Parejo converted a penalty after Girona’s Ramalho scored an own-goal to cancel out the opener by Cristian “Portu” Portugues.

Forward Luciano Vietto debuted for Atletico as a late substitute after arriving on loan from Atletico.

Real Betis won a wild Seville derby by rolling to a 5-3 victory at Sevilla, ruining the home debut of Italian coach Vincenzo Montella.

Betis never trailed, although Sevilla leveled at 2-2 by halftime. But Riza Durmisi, Sergio Leon and Cristian Tello scored in the second half to deal Sevilla its first home loss in league play since Nov. 2016.

Police arrested 23 people for participating in a fight between fans of Sevilla and Real Betis hours before the match. Authorities said that the rival fans had arranged the meeting in order to fight.

Atletico’s Diego Costa sent off after scoring in La Liga debut

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Diego Costa has scored in back-to-back matches since returning to Atletico Madrid, but his celebrations sent him to the showers early on Saturday.

The Spanish striker scored in the 68th minute against Getafe today to give Atleti a 2-0 advantage, however, the former Chelsea player’s actions after the goal earned him a second yellow card and an early exit from the match.

[ MORE: Coutinho set to join Barcelona for whopping $192 million fee ]

Costa, who rejoined Atletico in January after spending three seasons with Chelsea, left Atleti to fend with 10 men for the final 20 minutes-plus on Saturday, however, the 2-0 scoreline held for the home side and Diego Simeone’s men sit within six points of league leaders Barcelona.

Atleti will return to La Liga action next weekend with a visit to Eibar, however Simeone and Co. will take the pitch on Tuesday in their Copa del Rey second leg against Lleida.

VIDEO: Diego Costa scores, injured in Atletico debut

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Diego Costa‘s second debut for Atletico Madrid was pretty eventful.

The Spanish international, 29, hadn’t played in a competitive game since the FA Cup final at the end of the 2016-17 season but just five minutes after coming on as a sub for Atletico on Wednesday he found the back of the net in their 4-0 win against lower-tier Lleida Esportiu in the Copa del Rey.

Yet Costa injured himself either by diving in to score the goal, or with his celebration, but managed to continue after receiving treatment on his injured right knee.

In his first spell with Atletico he scored 64 goals in 135 appearances in all competitions before being sold to Chelsea in the summer of 2014.

Costa then fell out with manager Antonio Conte on multiple occasions and Chelsea eventually agreed to sell him in September. He has since had to wait on the sidelines to make his debut for Atletico with their transfer ban lifted on January 1, 2018.

You can watch Costa’s goal below.

Expectations high for Diego Costa’s long-awaited return to Atleti

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone finally has his favorite striker back at the club.

Now expectations are high in the Spanish capital that Diego Costa can again make Atletico a title winner.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City, Spurs in action on Tuesday (TV, stream info) ]

Costa helped the team win the 2013 Copa del Rey before topping that the following season with the Spanish league title ā€” making Atletico the only team other than Barcelona or Real Madrid to win the competition in the last 13 years.

Costa also led Atletico to the first of two Champions League finals in the last four years, but he was forced to abandon the 2014 final early on due to injury and Atletico lost 4-1 in extra time to Madrid.

In the three years Costa was at Chelsea, Atletico only won the minor 2014 Spanish Super Cup.

Costa faces a challenge to win more silverware immediately. Atletico failed to advance from the Champions League group stage and, although it is second in the Spanish league, it trails leader Barcelona by nine points. Its best chances are in the Copa and Europa League.

[ MORE: No surgery for Gabriel Jesus after MCL injury ]

“We were eliminated from the Champions League, which was bad luck, but we still have a lot to do this year and we are going to fight for everything we can achieve,” Costa said at his presentation on Sunday before being greeted by more than 25,000 fans at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

His immediate goal will be to recover his full fitness after not playing since last season when he helped Chelsea win the Premier League but fell out of favor with coach Antonio Conte.

Six months have passed since Costa played his last official match, scoring in a 2-1 win for Spain over Macedonia. He has been training hard with Atletico since the Spanish club agreed to a transfer fee reportedly worth $72 million in September.

“I am feeling a lot better than when I arrived,” Costa said. “I have prepared well and I am anxious to play and do what I need to do, which is to help the team and score goals. I have been waiting a long time for this moment. I am tired of training, I want to play.”

His first opportunity will likely come Wednesday when Atletico visits Lleida in the Copa del Rey’s round-of-16. Next up is a league match against Getafe on Saturday.

Costa and fellow winter reinforcement Victor “Vitolo” Machin weren’t allowed to play for Atletico until 2018 when the club’s one-year ban on fielding new players expired. The ban was imposed by FIFA after the club broke rules regarding youth players.

Simeone is hoping that the 29-year-old Costa is still the same caliber as when he scored 20 goals to lead Chelsea to the PL title.

[ MORE: January transfer plans for Mourinho, Man United? ]

The Brazilian-born striker will rejoin a team that maintains its pillars from 2014. Center back Diego Godin and left back Felipe Luis feature in defense, Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion and Gabi Fernandez are fixtures in midfield, and most importantly Simeone still stalks the sideline.

Costa’s goals, physical play and “bad boy” attitude that rattles rivals are the perfect fit for Simeone’s emphasis on hard work and a united team.

Atletico tried several times to find a replacement for Costa. But neither Mario Mandzukic nor Jackson Martinez panned out, and current striker Kevin Gameiro has only given Atletico goals in bursts.

Costa will slot in beside forward Antoine Griezmann, the team’s most creative player and its top goal scorer in recent campaigns who is reportedly being pursued by other clubs, including Barcelona and Manchester United.

In theory, the two should make a deadly force.

“We have worked very hard to get Costa and Griezmann together. I hope we can enjoy them for a long time,” Simeone said Saturday. “We have two forwards coming to the team and the competition is good for Atletico.”

[ MORE: Top 5 PL matches to come in 2018 ]

Atletico has also strengthened its attack with Vitolo, who is similar in his large build to Costa. Vitolo spent the first half of the season on loan at Las Palmas after Atletico lured him away from Sevilla in the offseason.

The additions of Costa and Vitolo may mean Atletico will look to move one or more of its forwards. Besides Gameiro, Atletico’s attack also includes Fernando Torres, Yannick Carrasco, Angel Correa and Luciano Vietto.

Costa also has a lot to play for individually. His spot on Spain’s World Cup squad is in jeopardy after he was dropped by coach Julen Lopetegui given his hiatus from football.

“If I start scoring goals and the team plays well, it will be easier for me to make Lopetegui’s list,” Costa said. “I am ready to give it my all and later the coach will decide.”

Diego Costa releases statement after leaving Chelsea

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Diego Costa had a few things to get off his chest after his move from Chelsea to Atletico Madrid was made official on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s UCL preview ]

With Atletico hosting Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday at their brand spanking new Wanda Metropolitano home, there could be no better timing for Costa to come out with these comments.

Of course, the Spanish international striker cannot play for Atletico until January when their transfer ban ends but right now he is focusing on the past after winning two titles in three seasons at Chelsea.

“Some cycles begin while others end. My cycle at Chelsea began three years ago ā€“ three remarkable years in all aspects ā€“ and I will never forget it. Two championship titles, a Community Shield, 120 matches, 59 goals and 24 assists later this cycle has ended. Not the way I would have wanted ā€“ far from it ā€“ but the best way possible.

“The wonderful fans of such equally admirable club and all team mates, as well as all clinical, administrative and logistics staff will remain forever in my mind and in my heart. Will bring them with me with the certainty that I will always be by their side as well, and Iā€™m sure they will understand the reason why this cycle of mine has now ended ā€“ because I could not lose faith in myself. Thank you Chelsea for everything!”

There’s no doubt that Costa moving on was the best option for everyone. Chelsea’s boss Antonio Conte had told him he was no longer needed and the Blues held out and received $76 million from Atleti for his services.

Now Costa, 28, is back where he wanted to be after leaving Atletico in the summer of 2014 but never really settling in England despite scoring 59 goals in all competitions and being Chelsea’s leading goalscoer in each of the past three seasons.

His combative nature seems perfect for Diego Simeone’s Atletico and even after a tumultuous summer surrounding his eventual departure, most Chelsea fans will wish him well and will remember the important goals he scored as they won two titles in three seasons.

All’s well that ends well. Sort of.