MADRID (AP) — Diego Costa and David Villa delivered again for Atletico Madrid, whose Spanish league title charge continued to gain strength Sunday with a 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao.
Villa enjoyed Atletico's best opportunities at the Vicente Calderon Stadium and put the hosts ahead after 32 minutes by volleying Juanfran's headed-on cross through the crowded area into goal.
Nine minutes later, Koke delivered a perfect ball to Costa, who the cut back to dribble around Erik Moran and fire a low shot beyond goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz for his joint league-leading 13th goal of the season.
Bilbao rarely threatened and was reduced to 10 men in the 81st when Moran was shown a second yellow.
Atletico's 11th win in 12 rounds left it one point behind leader Barcelona, which has 34 points following its 1-0 win over Espanyol on Friday. Real Madrid, which beat Rayo Vallecano 3-2 on Saturday, is third in the standings with 28 points.
Earlier on Sunday, Valencia lifted some of the pressure of coach Miroslav Djukic with its first win in five rounds, a 1-0 victory at Getafe.
Costa, the Brazilian-born, naturalized Spaniard, has spearheaded Atletico's title credentials so far this season. Buut it was captain Gabi who first tested Iraizoz in the 18th, and the Basque goalie made an outstanding reaction save to a low drive.
Costa then showed how dangerous he is when given space in front of goal as he moved freely down the left side to poke a shot past Iraizoz, but also beyond the far post.
Atletico controlled a physical game and was inching closer to an opener as Iraizoz made another reaction save to deny Villa's powerful half-volley in the 26th.
But Iraizoz couldn't keep up with the Spanish striker's shot from almost the same spot moments later, as Villa's sixth goal of the season made it 1-0.
Koke has been instrumental in Costa's scoring run and the Spain midfielder again set up the striker to add the second, putting him even with Cristiano Ronaldo atop the scoring chart.
While Athletic enjoyed some momentum in the second half, Atletico had the better scoring opportunities, with Villa's powerful header just before the hour mark saved by Iraizoz.
Costa blasted a quick shot over the near post in the 77th as he surprised Iraizoz.
Valencia had lost three straight before the game at the Alfonso Perez Stadium but an impressive first-half strike from Dorlan Pabon sealed the morale-boosting victory.
The Colombian striker unleashed a powerful shot from 30 meters in the 40th minute that flew beyond goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya into the left corner.
Athletic is fifth with 20 points, one better than Getafe. Valencia has 16.
Levante plays Granada and Malaga faces Real Betis later Sunday.