Madrid: The deep gash to Diego Costa’s shin suffered in Atletico Madrid’s 2-0 La Liga win at Getafe on Sunday drove home the point that the leaders are putting everything on the line, including their own bodies, in pursuit of the title.
Costa had a penalty saved at Getafe’s Coliseum stadium in the Madrid suburbs shortly before Adrian sent a low cross trundling towards the far post in the 84th minute.
It looked like the Brazil-born forward would not reach the ball before it rolled out of play, but he flung himself full stretch to divert it over the line, colliding heavily with a post and opening a deep cut just below his left knee.
With Costa carried off on a stretcher in apparent agony, there were fears the forward could miss significant playing time but Atletico said he sustained nothing more serious than a cut.
Relieved coach Diego Simeone told a news conference the player was “happy and fine”.
Costa’s goal made it 2-0 and killed off any hopes Getafe, who are battling to avoid relegation, might have had of snatching a point.
Atletico’s advantage at the top is now three points with five games left, with Real Madrid in second and champions Barcelona, who crashed to a shock defeat at Granada on Saturday, a point further back in third.
Former Argentina captain Simeone was a committed, never-say-die midfielder during stints for clubs including Atletico and Sevilla in Spain and Inter Milan and Lazio in Italy and he was in the Atletico team the last time they won La Liga in 1996.
His fierce competitiveness and thirst for victory appears to have rubbed off on his players, who have brought Atletico to the brink of what would be a remarkable domestic league triumph against vastly wealthier rivals.
They are also through to the last four of the Champions League for the first time in 40 years having dispatched former winners Barca and AC Milan on the way.
“We needed effort and ambition on the part of the footballers to get a very important result,” Simeone told a news conference after the Getafe game.
“This puts us where we want to be with five matches left,” added the 43-year-old.
“The situation will depend on ambition, enthusiasm, effort, hard work and above all the humility of the team.”
Costa’s goals have helped drive Atletico’s success this term. He has 26 in La Liga, two behind top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo of Real.
The gash to his shin should not prevent him from playing in Friday’s La Liga match at home to Elche.
Their final four games are away at Valencia and Levante, and at home to Malaga before a trip to Barca on the last day of the campaign.
If they win their next four matches they will already be champions when they run out at the Nou Camp.
“With our weapons, with sacrifice, always working together and staying very united we are achieving good things,” midfielder Mario Suarez told reporters.
“This journey is not over yet, there is a long way to go and we hope it ends well.”