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Gamble on Costa proves costly for Aleti

Atlético''s coach Diego Simeone (centre right) is held back by his staff.

Simeone: ‘It was my responsibility and I made a mistake’

Atlético Madrid coach Diego Simeone took the responsibility of putting Diego Costa in the first team when the striker was not fully fit for the match and said that he “made a mistake.”

LISBON, Portugal — The gamble on Diego Costa proved costly for Atlético Madrid. Coach Diego Simeone decided to put the injured striker in the starting lineup for yesterday’s Champions League final against Real Madrid — a move that backfired immediately as Costa had to hobble off after just nine minutes.

Atlético — left with just two more substitutions — then tired in extra time as Real won 4-1.

“No doubt the fact Diego played was my responsibility and I made a mistake,” Simeone said. “He was obviously not in playing conditions.”

Costa was back in the starting lineup just one week after leaving early with a right hamstring injury in a 1-1 draw at Barcelona that secured the Spanish league title. With the European Cup on the line, Costa had seen a doctor specializing in using fluid derived from horse placenta to repair damaged cells.

But Costa’s return proved rushed as the Brazilian-born Spain striker looked hesitant from the start at the Stadium of Light. He was taken off for Adrián López moments after his first touch of the game.

“Our looks crossed and we knew,” Simeone said of the decision to replace Costa. “I didn’t want to lose time in this game playing with one player less. It just couldn’t be.”

Costa led Atlético with 36 goals this season, and his injury comes ahead of the World Cup in Brazil next month.

“I don’t know if he’ll have a problem” playing in the World Cup, Simeone said. “We’ll have to talk to him and the doctors, and see.”

For Atlético and Simeone, it was a cruel and deflating end to an astonishing season, when they won their first domestic league title since 1996 and emerged as genuine contenders among Europe’s elite despite limited resources.

“Madrid was better,” said Simeone. “They were able to get out on the break and that hurt our chances.”

It was also a case of history repeating itself as Atlético was within a minute of winning the 1974 European Cup final before Bayern Munich equalized and won the subsequent replay.

“This match is not worth crying about, when the players have given everything they could on the pitch,” he added. “Now they need to rest, relax and take things calmly. I am very proud of my players, my staff, we have competed with one of the great clubs with humility.”

There was precious little humility on show at the death, however, as the hot-headed Argentine raced on to the pitch in a fury to confront Real defender Raphael Varane.

Simeone, who also remonstrated with the referee on the pitch during extra-time, had to be restrained by the Atlético players and coaching staff before eventually being dragged clear to look on from afar as Real began their celebrations.

Cristiano Ronaldo now has two Champions League winner medals to show off along with his two world player of the year awards. That is, when he’s done showing off his ripped physique.

Ronaldo’s penalty at the end of extra time sealed a 4-1 win for Real Madrid. The 29-year-old Portuguese star then ripped off his shirt in celebration and struck a pose showing off his muscles.

Soon, Ronaldo was being hugged by Portugal’s president and patted on the back by Spain’s King Juan Carlos before collecting his medal from UEFA President Michel Platini —who also hugged him.

Just another night of Ronaldo being soccer’s biggest showman and undisputed current best player.

The Madrid star now heads to Brazil to cap his stellar season at the World Cup.

AP, Reuters

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