MADRID Atletico Madrid kept pace with leaders Barcelona and restored their five-point lead over third-placed city rivals Real when Diego Costa and David Villa each scored a penalty in a 2-1 win at Granada in La Liga on Thursday.
Atletico, King's Cup winners last season, have won 10 of their 11 league games this term, a record only bettered by unbeaten champions Barca, and their only setback was this month's 1-0 defeat at Espanyol.
Transformed into genuine title contenders by Argentine coach Diego Simeone, they have 30 points in second place, with Barca, who won 3-0 at Celta Vigo on Tuesday, on 31 and Real, 7-3 winners at home to Sevilla on Wednesday, on 25.
Spain forward Villa won both of Atletico's penalties at Granada's Los Carmenes stadium, La Liga top scorer Costa netting the first in the 38th minute for his 12th goal of the campaign.
Villa converted his spot kick in the 78th before Atletico fullback Felipe Luis was shown a second yellow card and sent off and Odion Jude Ighalo pulled a goal back for the home side in the first minute of added time.
"I am delighted with the effort the players are putting in," Simeone said at a news conference.
"It's not easy to win, win, win and continue winning," the former Atletico and Argentina midfielder added.
"What really pleases me is that the team knows how to suffer when it has to suffer because we will have to do so to keep fighting at the top of the table."
Athletic Bilbao climbed to fifth, level on 20 points with fourth-placed Villarreal, when they came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home to promoted Elche.
Getafe, one of the surprise packages of the season, closed to within a point of Villarreal and Bilbao in sixth when they won 2-0 at Villarreal's Madrigal stadium after the home side had defender Pablo Iniguez dismissed just before the break.
Real Betis forward Jorge Molina had a second-half penalty saved by Levante goalkeeper Keylor Navas in a 0-0 draw in Seville to leave struggling Betis in 18th and Levante in seventh.
The 12th round of matches begins on Friday when Barca host city rivals Espanyol (1600 EDT) at the Nou Camp.
Real play at struggling Madrid neighbours Rayo Vallecano on Saturday (1900) and Atletico host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday (1600).
(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Toby Davis/Greg Stutchbury)