Atlético Madrid vs. Elche: Final score 2-0, João Miranda the hero for Los Colchoneros

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

Miranda's header late in the second half gave Atlético Madrid another win as they moved one step closer to the title.

It took just over 70 minutes, but thanks to João Miranda's header after so many close calls, Atlético Madrid found a way to defeat a stubborn Elche side, and take another step toward claiming the league title.

Elche came ever so close to taking a lead in the 25th minute when Cristian Sapunaru got a point-blank chance off a corner. The Elche defender somehow got free right in front of Thibaut Courtois, but as he has all season, the Belgian was in the right place to make the save and keeping the match scoreless.

Atletico nearly responded a minute later as Filipe Luis got a wide open chance of his own just inside the Elche 18-yard-box. Unfortunately for the home side, Luis' left-foot let him down as he shanked the shot well wide of the goal.

In the 42nd minute, David Villa just missed connecting with a headed-on ball by Diego Costa. Juanfran sent the initial ball into the box, curling a ball past a defender to Costa who headed it down toward the far post where Villa was all alone. The Atléti striker was just a bit off with his touch, and the ball missed by a matter of inches.

Raúl García, who'd entered the match at halftime, had an immediate impact for Atléti, earning a penalty just four minutes into the second half. The call was a bit harsh against Sapunaru, but as often happens in football, things tend to balance themselves out. Villa took the penalty, but was stonewalled by Manu Herrera, keeping the match scoreless, much to the chagrin of the Calderon crowd.

Villa's night got a little worse in the 56th minute after he beat Herrera with a sliding volley, only to have the goal disallowed as he and three other teammates, were offside.

Finally in the 72nd minute, Atléti broke through thanks to one of their center backs. José Sosa's outward curling corner kick found Miranda near the far post, and the defender did the rest. Miranda got up over his marker and directed a header back across the face of goal, sneaking it inside the far post to give Atléti a lead, 1-0.

In the 90th minute, Atleéti were given their second penalty of the match when Sapunaru -- the same player who conceded the first PK -- tripped up Diego Costa from behind before he could get a show away in the box. Sapunaru was sent off with his second yellow card, and Costa buried the penalty to make it 2-0 and secure the victory.

With Real Madrid idle, Atléti's point lead expands to six over their city rivals. The win also reduces Los Colchoneros' magic number for the league title to three victories from their last four matches.

Atlético Madrid: Courtois, Filipe Luis, Godín, Miranda, Juanfran, Tiago, Gabi, Koke (Diego 57'), Adrián (García 46'), David Villa (Sosa 62'), Diego Costa

Goals: Miranda (72'), Costa (90')

Elche: M. Herrera, Suárez, Botía, Pelegrín, Sapunaru, Rivera, Coro, Gil (Aarón 71'), Márquez (Boakye 76'), Sánchez, C. Herrera (Fidel 57')

Goals: None

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