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Curse of El Pupas strikes again

Atlético Madrid are a joke. Not a very good one, and certainly not as funny as they used to be, but definitely a joke. They might have ditched the European Gigolo, XXX and Peter Pan-emblazoned shirts for the nice, sensible sponsorship of a Japanese people carrier, gelatinous president Jesús Gil might be riding elephants around heaven (or, let’s face it, hell) these days, and they might be the only side to have beaten Barcelona this season, but some things never change – as this weekend proved.

Jornada 16 and it was typical La Liga. A single referee brilliantly sent off five men in a game that wasn’t even particularly dirty as Racing and Málaga played out another irrelevance; Zaragoza drew their ninth game of the season; Real Sociedad blew a two-goal lead in the dying minutes for the third time in four weeks; Betis failed to win for the ninth successive match; Juan Román Riquelme scored a beauty; and Samuel Eto’o hit two more as Barcelona won their twelfth game on the trot.

But if all of that felt deeply familiar, Atlético crowned it all with another typically Atlético performance – a slapstick 2-2 draw in Mallorca that pretty much summed them up. Not just this season but always and forever.

“Atlético are taking giant strides towards normality,” the club’s freebie match-day magazine announced gleefully back in Week 3, failing miserably to appreciate that down at the Calderón, Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada Clothing Uk amongst the rubble and mud at the Best Prada Outlet Italy end Authentic Prada Handbags Usa of the appropriately named Melancholics’ Way, normality is anything but normal. Atlético lost the 1974 Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada Dresses Uk European Cup final to a goal that was late, freaky and from 40 yards, and have been known as El Pupas – the jinxed one – ever since, always ready to inexplicably snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the silliest way possible.

That weekend, back in September, Atletico deservedly defeated Authentic Prada Canvas Bag Barcelona 2-1 and, with an excellent squad and a manager who wasn’t a headcase, the future was bright as a button with a PhD. And yet the fans (yes, yes, and this column) really should have known better – after all, Atlético have had more false dawns than Truman Burbank.

Every year is going to be their year only every year isn’t, and this year is proving no exception. Atlético have won just three times in 13 matches since defeating Barça; Fernando Torres and Mateja Kezman have only scored four each; there’s no creativity in midfield; Bulgarian winger Martin Petrov, dubbed the new Hristo Stoichkov because he is as mental as he is talented, is only getting it half right; and even the rock-solid partnership of Pablo and Perea is shipping goals. Late ones. Soft ones.

Last night, Atlético were 2-0 up after just 13 minutes through Maxi Rodríguez and indie-band beardy Gonzalo Colsa, who, Authentic Prada Handbags Usa like so many others, only ever seems to score in Mallorca. Torres had produced a superb piece of skill to create the second and the visitors appeared to be cruising. But then, as ever, disaster struck. First Marc Iuliano, a defender who has only scored nine league goals in 15 years and never got more than one a season, got one back with a header (the fourth header Atléti have conceded in four games). And then it got silly.

Atlético goalkeeper Ismael Falcón – Millennium to his mates – got himself sent off with 15 minutes left, which was a bit of worry seeing as he wasn’t supposed to be on in the first place: he had travelled as Authentic Prada Shoes For Sale the substitute goalie, only for first-choice keeper Leo Franco to get injured (well, re-injured) on the plane. With Falcón off, Atlético had no choice but to send on a lame duck.

He held out for a bit before Iuliano scored a second in the 85th minute – the third week running that Atlético had conceded a poor equaliser in the dying minutes. The seventh time in just 16 games that they have lost points (11 of them in total) to late goals. Four times Atlético have conceded in the 90th minute and all four times it has changed the result of the match. Supposedly ready to challenge at the top, Atléti instead find themselves just five points clear of relegation; El Pupas lives on.

“Everything repeats itself,” sighed coach Carlos Bianchi, adding, 10 minutes later, “everything repeats itself”. Mallorca boss Héctor Cúper lit up another cigarette and shrugged: “It was a mad game.”

Just for a change, like. Marca’s Alberto Barbero wrote: “Go on, admit it: you didn’t know how they’d manage it, but you knew Atlético would find some way of blowing it.” AS’s Iñako Díaz Guerra certainly did. “Atlético,” he wrote, “are a self-parody. Every match is like one of those dreadful Hollywood scripts packed with clichés and crazy twists which lead you to a final play-out as absurd as it is impossible. The trouble is that with Bianchi’s team it’s all painfully real. Last night they took their umpteenth death-defying leap into the ridiculous.”

Still, at least Atlético fans can take comfort from the fact that Real Madrid are almost as bad, however much the press bangs on about how hard they’re working under Juan Ramón López Caro (just as they banged on about how hard they were working under Queiroz, Camacho, García Remón and Luxemburgo). They needed a late equaliser Authentic Prada Handbags Uk against 10-man Osasuna to rescue a point that, as mad Madridista Tomás Roncero put it in AS, “tasted like victory because this cow’s teat can’t give any more”.

Once again, the fans booed their team and once again Ronaldo criticised them for it, which isn’t what you expect from a man who’s just revealed that his Authentic Prada Bags Uk greatest dream is to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Then again, you wonder if he actually knows what the award is for, having cheerfully announced: “I want to win the Nobel Peace Prize – and I’m going to fight as hard as I can to make it happen.”


Celta 0 – 3 Deportivo Athletic 2 – 0 Betis Cádiz 1 – 3 Barcelona Villarreal 2 – 1 Getafe Sevilla 3 – 2 Real Sociedad Espanyol 2 -2 Zaragoza Alavés 0 – 1 Valencia Racing 1 – 1 Málaga Mallorca 2 – 2 Atlético Real Madrid 1 – 1 Osasuna Are Prada Trainers Made In Vietnam

[ gloatingly announced that Madrid had “won the lottery” by drawing Arsenal. Which may well be true, but shouldn’t Arsenal be entitled to feel exactly the same way?]