Atletico Madrid edged Sevilla 2-1 here Thursday in an exciting, hard-fought first leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal.

Three players were ejected and all three goals came on penalties.

The two clubs have developed a rivalry comparable to that between Real Madrid and Barcelona and playing for a spot in the Copa del Rey final only ratcheted up the intensity level.

Atletico, unbeaten at home in league play this season, played their usual aggressive offensive game, despite the absence of top scorer Radamel Falcao.

A defensive-minded Sevilla resisted the onslaught, but Atletico poured on the pressure and generated several serious chances as halftime approached, while the visitors threatened only once in the first 45 minutes.

The home side finally lit up the scoreboard in the 48th minute, when Diego Costa converted on a penalty after Sevilla's Spahic was ejected for a second yellow card.

But the tables turned just three minutes later, as Atletico's Diego Godin was thrown out for a hand ball and Negredo evened the score on the resulting penalty kick.

The sudden reversal left Atletico dazed and it was only after giving up a pair of quality chances to the visitors that the Madrid side regained its composure sufficiently to resume the attack, drawing yet another penalty.

With Sevilla's Fernando Navarro thrown out on a straight red card, Costa scored his second goal to make it 2-1 with 20 minutes left in regulation. EFE