Lisbon, 25 May-2014, AP: For Atletico Madrid, this story line is a little too familiar.
Forty years on from conceding a last-minute goal in its only previous European Cup final, Atletico endured a similar ending Saturday as a stoppage-time equalizer helped Real Madrid rally for a 4-1 extra-time victory in the Champions League final.
Atletico’s nickname the “pupas” – or “jinxed ones” – stems from the 1974 European Cup loss to Bayern Munich, which scored a 120th-minute equalizer to force a replay that it won 4-0.
Atletico looked set to follow up its first Spanish league title in 18 years with a maiden European Cup when Diego Godin headed home in the first half at the Stadium of Light.
But Sergio Ramos equalized in the injury time before Gareth Bale, Marcelo, and Cristiano Ronaldo completed Real’s win.
“This match is not worth a tear,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “The word to describe this feeling isn’t sadness but bitterness as we didn’t achieve the objectives we set for ourselves.
“But tomorrow is another day.”
Not only was Atletico just over 60 seconds away from erasing the painful memories of that 1974 final, but from completing the greatest season in club history with a historic double.
Just one week ago Atletico secured its first Spanish league title in 18 years, an improbable triumph to become the first Spanish winner besides Barcelona or Real since Valencia in 2004.
But Simeone’s decision to play injured striker Diego Costa set Atletico back as the Brazilian-born, Spain striker exited after just nine minutes. With midfielder Arda Turan also out to injury, Atletico’s players struggled over the extra 30 minutes with the team out of timeouts and running low on energy.
“We were champions in the 93rd,” said striker Adrian Lopez, who replaced Costa. “We played a great game for 90 minutes and it was a shame we couldn’t avoid (Ramos’) goal.”
It took Atletico 40 years for an opportunity to erase the memories of Heysel, the sight of the 1974 final and final replay. Its 10th league trophy seems a little less impressive on Saturday.
“To win the league was marvelous and we were so close to such an important trophy,” Simeone said. “This will help us prepare for what is going to come next in the best way.”
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