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Typically Sunday’s 1-0 win over Deportivo Coruna came with the usual dose of nail-biting, wincing and stomach churning that have made the Calderon such a stressful place to be in recent seasons.
Although the dependable Diego Forlan put Atletico ahead on the stroke of halftime, the team looked to be suffering a severe bout of stage fright in the final quarter and nearly threw it away as they watched the Galicians lay siege to their goal.
So it was with a mixture of joy and relief that Atletico secured their first top four finish since they did the double back in 1996.
The fact that Martin Palermo is Boca Juniors’s regular penalty taker speaks volumes about his strength of character.
Back in 1999, Palermo made international headlines for the wrong reasons when he missed three penalties for Argentina in their 3-0 Copa America defeat by Colombia. Yet, instead of hiding in his hotel room, Palermo came out and faced the media the next day, promising to get on with his career.
In the debate over who might finally achieve the seemingly impossible — become a successful manager of Newcastle United — Osvaldo Ardiles has been overlooked.
This is understandable at first glance, given the perception of the Argentine as a manager in England — quite different from his immeasurable impact as a player.