Spot on Costa, Villa keep Atletico on Barca's tails
A penalty in each half from Diego Costa and David Villa moved Atletico Madrid back to within a point of Barcelona at the top of La Liga with a 2-1 win at Granada on Thursday.
Costa declared his intention to play for Spain earlier in the week and he continued his claim to be included in Vicente del Bosque's squad next week by converting from the spot after Villa had been bundled over by Diego Mainz seven minutes before half-time.
Villa was again the victim for the second penalty award 12 minutes from time, but despite Costa still being on the field, it was Villa who took responsibility to seal the points with another confidently struck spot-kick.
Atletico were then reduced to 10 men with two minutes remaining when Filipe Luis was shown a second yellow card and Odion Ighalo pulled a goal back in stoppage time, but it was too little too late for Granada, who slipped to their fifth home defeat of the season.
Atletico manager Diego Simeone was impressed by the winning mentality showed by his players despite not playing their best football on the night.
"Penalties are part of the game and winning away from home is difficult," he said.
"I am left with the impression that team gave me, which is that they know how to struggle when they have to and still manage to win, because we are going to have to struggle to stay in the position we are just now."
However, Simeone continued to talk down Atletico's chances of challenging Barcelona and Real Madrid for the title come the end of the season.
"I am very happy for the effort the players have shown, it is not easy to keep winning, but we are not thinking further than the match against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday."
Simeone's men had suffered their only defeat of the season in their last away game at Espanyol and they were put under the cosh early on by Granada.
Midfielder Recio saw a deflected effort clip the crossbar from a narrow angle and then forced Thibaut Courtois to awkwardly turn the ball over his own bar after the Belgian had been caught under a cross from the left.
Atletico, though, began to take control of the game midway through the first-half and they were gifted the chance to open the scoring when Mainz unnecessarily charged into the back of Villa inside the area.
Costa confidently rolled the ball down the middle of the goal to register his 12th league goal of the season and move him back clear of Cristiano Ronaldo on 11 as La Liga's top scorer after the Portuguese's hat-trick in Real Madrid's 7-3 hammering of Sevilla on Wednesday.
Adrian Lopez and Costa then passed up fine opportunities to double Atletico's advantage.
But they did finally get the all-important second goal when Villa was chopped down by Jeison Murillo and this time the former Barcelona man stepped up to send Roberto the wrong way for his sixth goal of the campaign.
The visitors' night was soured slightly in the dying minutes, however, as Filipe Luis was shown a second yellow card for handball and Ighalo ensured nervy finish when he nodded home Allan Nyom's cross as the game entered stoppage time.