Koke nets winner as Atletico rise to the top

Atletico Madrid knocked Barcelona off the top of La Liga, for a day at least, as a second-half strike by Koke earned a 1-0 victory over a stubborn Malaga side on Saturday.

With Barcelona not playing on Saturday, Atletico took advantage to move three points clear, although it was hard work for the visitors.

Atletico lacked a cutting edge against a well-marshalled Malaga defence with the league's top scorer Diego Costa having a subdued match in a misfiring attack.

Koke finally made the breakthrough, slotting the ball home after keeper Willy Caballeros saved from Adrian Lopez following good work by Costa.

"Malaga were happy for us to have the ball and play on the counter-attack. They were strong at the back," Atletico coach Diego Simeone told a news conference.

"We were finding it difficult to create openings but in the end we managed it through a team effort. We continue to go match by match and expect Barcelona to win tomorrow and go back to the top.”

Atletico now have 49 points from 18 games although Barcelona will return to the top with victory at home against Elche.

The only bad news was that Juanfran picked up a booking and will be suspended for next week's top-of-the-table clash with Barcelona.

Real Madrid, who are eight points adrift, face Celta Vigo on Monday.

Valencia made a winning start under new coach Juan Antonio Pizzi with Pablo Piatti and Sofiane Feghouli scoring in a 2-0 victory over local rivals Levante that lifted them up to eighth place on 23 points.

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