07.10.2018 18:54 h

Correa winner against Betis sends Atletico top of La Liga

Atletico Madrid shot to the top of La Liga after Angel Correa's goal proved the winner in an untidy 1-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

Atletico sat seven points behind Real Madrid and Barcelona after winning only one of their opening four league games but as their rivals have stumbled, Diego Simeone's side have sprung into form.

Even if Barca return to the summit by beating Valencia later on Sunday, this was Atleti's fifth win in six in all competitions, with their only dropped points coming in a stalemate away to Real Madrid.

"We look at everything quietly and continue to improve," Simeone said. "We have grown."

Simeone can take some of the credit too for this victory at the Wanda Metropolitano, after throwing on both Correa and Thomas Partey as substitutes in the second half. Thomas provided the assist.

"When the players respond, the coaches look better," Simeone said. "The teams that challenge up the top of the table are there because of the players they can bring off the bench."

The contest was billed as a classic clash of styles, with Atletico's stubborn defence up against the free-flowing Real Betis, who lit up the league last season with their flurry of goals.

It is testament to the threat they pose that opponents have become more cautious this season and Atletico were successful here in their strategy of absorb and counter-attack.

"A great coach once said, the best Plan B is always to do Plan A better," said Betis coach Quique Setien.

They could also have gone top with a win, such is the scrunched nature of the top half, but instead Betis stay seventh.

"We have less points than our performances deserve," Setien added.

Diego Costa was missing with a thigh injury, allowing Nikola Kalinic to make his first start since joining from AC Milan in August.

There was a lack of width and clear thinking in the first half although Betis had the best chance early on. Loren Moron raced through a rare gap in the Atletico defence but the ball got stuck under his feet and he skewed wide.

Atletico posed a threat on the break but repeatedly fluffed the final pass. Kalinic struck the post early in the second half after Aissa Mandi gave it away, before Rodrigo lashed a shot at Pau Lopez.

Simeone flapped his arms to beckon the home crowd ane Atleti were finding their rhythm as Antoine Griezmann pulled back for Kalinic and then Correa fired across goal but neither Griezmann nor Diego Godin turned it in.

Correa, on for the quiet Thomas Lemar, had made a difference with his direct running and he deserved his goal in the 74th minute.

Thomas flicked it into his path and with no better option, the forward drove low into the bottom corner. Betis pushed in the latter stages but there was little hint of an equaliser. Atletico held on.