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Soccer-Costa on target as Atletico beat battling Elche

Reuters

(Adds Simeone quotes in paras 3-4)

Nov 30 (Reuters) - Diego Costa continued his fine scoring run with the second goal as Atletico Madrid overcame stubborn resistance from Elche to win 2-0 and maintain their pursuit of La Liga leaders Barcelona on Saturday.

Koke scored from close range after 63 minutes to break the hosts' resistance and Costa, back after injury, struck 11 minutes later.

"We need to continue on the same lines and be realistic," coach Diego Simeone told a news conference. "It is a good moment for the fans but we still need to go match by match," he added, with Atletico having only dropped five points so far.

"It is an important win against a tough rival where we started well but later Elche caused two or three moments of danger. We spoke at halftime about using the wings more and it helped."

The win put Atletico on 40 points, level with Barca who face a difficult away game against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday without the injured Lionel Messi and goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

Third-placed Real Madrid, missing Cristiano Ronaldo through injury, take on Valladolid later on Saturday (1900 GMT) and could move within three points of Barcelona.

Atletico had the first chance on Saturday when Gabi Fernandez was left unmarked at a corner after 10 minutes but his header lacked the power to beat keeper Manuel Herrera.

After a goalless first half, Atletico finally made the breakthrough when Herrera parried Raul Garcia's shot and Koke was quickest to react, bundling the ball home.

Costa latched on to an Adrian Lopez's pass to slot in the second for his 15th league goal of the season, putting him two behind La Liga top scorer Ronaldo. (Writing by Tim Hanlon in Barcelona; Editing by Clare Fallon and Ken Ferris)

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