(Adds late game)
By Tim Hanlon
BARCELONA, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Diego Costa scored twice as Atletico Madrid beat Valencia 3-0 to maintain their winning home run this season and keep pace with Barcelona at the top of the La Liga table.
The in-form forward broke the deadlock on the hour mark and Raul Garcia added a second moments later with Valencia's resistance broken.
Costa then missed a penalty but converted a second with nine minutes to go, his 17th league goal of the season putting him level with Real's Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring charts.
"You need to show personality and fight for your achievements so after missing the first penalty I wanted to take the second," Costa told reporters.
"Valencia played well in the first half and we knew that we had to do a bit more especially in attack which we did."
Atletico are level on 43 points with Barcelona who beat Villarreal 2-1 on Saturday while third-placed Real Madrid lost further ground following a 2-2 draw at Osasuna.
Atletico started slowly with Gabi Fernandez and Tiago Cardoso quiet in the engine room and there were only flickers of life from their forwards.
They upped their level after halftime and Costa dribbled in from the left wing with Victor Ruiz backing off before slotting home.
Minutes later they were further in front when Raul Garcia knocked in a loose ball in the area.
Costa was then upended in the area by Ruiz and took the penalty himself but Diego Alves saved well with his feet.
Atletico were now ripping open the Valencia defence and Antonio Barragan fouled Costa in the area before the striker found the top corner with his spot-kick.
Earlier, Real Sociedad bounced back from their Champions League exit with a resounding 5-1 win over bottom side Real Betis and Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw.
Bilbao, fresh from beating leaders Barcelona last time out, were looking to consolidate fourth place but conceded an early goal from Alberto Moreno, who finished well from the edge of the area after four minutes.
Athletic were level moments later when Gaizka Toquero picked up a short back-pass from Federico Fazio and crossed for Markel Susaeta to prod the ball home from close range.
Sevilla had keeper Beto to thank when he saved a penalty at the end of the first half.
Bilbao stayed fourth on 30 points and Sevilla, who came into the game on the back of three league wins, climbed to seventh on 23.
Sociedad lie sixth with 26 points and Betis are two points adrift at the foot of the table with 10 points.
The Basque side struggled with the demands of Europe's top competition, picking up just one point from their group, but they put the disappointment behind them with their third successive league win.
Imanol Agirretxe scored the first of his two goals early on for the hosts before Jorge Molina equalised after 19 minutes.
Ion Ansotegi headed Sociedad back in front soon after the break and Betis's misery was further compounded through further second-half goals by Antoine Griezmann, Agirretxe and Xabi Prieto. (Editing by Ed Osmond)
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- Diego Costa
- Atletico Madrid