With football postponed for the foreseeable future in Argentina and across the world, we look back at some of the Newell’s Old Boys matches which have shaped the history of the club.
2 June 1974 – Rosario Central 2-2 Newell’s
Newell’s Old Boys went to the home of their immortal rivals Rosario Central needing a point to secure a historic first championship. Both teams from Rosario had already finished top of their respective ‘zones’ and went into a playoff round which also included Boca Juniors and Huracán. The Gigante de Arroyito was technically supposed to be a neutral venue for this match but was amazingly drawn in the lottery to determine the stadium which would host this hotly-anticipated game. Newell’s needed just a draw to become champions of the 1974 Metropolitano having already beaten Boca and Huracán while Central needed to win, having lost to Huracán. On familiar territory, Central had an advantage and that was furthered when they went into the break 2-0 up and looking comfortable. However, what happened in the second half has come to define the history of La Lepra. On 71 minutes, Armando Capurro’s looping header grabbed a goal back for Newell’s. Hope was on the horizon. Ten minutes later, the ball was hoisted towards the goal and Newell’s substitute Magán headed it down near the edge of the box. Arriving was Mario Zanabria who controlled it on his chest and unleashed a fierce shot into the top corner, setting off hysterical scenes.
The match was unable to finish with disgruntled Central fans invading the field, but Newell’s knew they had secured a first title with Zanabria’s goal and that was confirmed by AFA a few days later. Zanabria and the heroes of 74 who delivered a first title to Newell’s Old Boys on that June day in Rosario are the toast of every generation of Newell’s Old Boys fans since.
25 October 1987 – Boca Juniors
After 1974, Newell’s Old Boys would have to wait another 14 years before they would be champions of Argentina again. In the glory years that kicked off during the title-winning season of 1987-88 under José Yudica, Boca Juniors’ home of La Bombonera would become the backdrop for many days in the sun for Newell’s Old Boys. The meeting of the two sides at that famous ground in late October 1987 was to signal the emergence of a golden generation of players for Newell’s Old Boys that would go on to dominate domestic football for the next four years, first under Yudica and then under his successor Marcelo Bielsa.
Although Boca were in the midst of a trophy-less spell, La Lepra ran riot in the capital. Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino ran the show from midfield and the prolific Roque Alfaro, who had just rejoined Newell’s from Boca’s crosstown rivals River Plate, scored a hat-trick. The boys from Rosario were back and what happened in the next few years proved that this team’s trajectory was not just a lucky run.
9 July 1991 – Boca Juniors 1-0 Newell’s (Newell’s win 3-1 on penalties)
By the winter of 1991, Marcelo Bielsa was at the helm at Newell’s Old Boys and had taken them to the Apertura title at the end of 1990. Boca Juniors took the Clausura title in the months that followed and in July 1991, a two-legged championship match was scheduled between the two winners to crown the overall champions of Argentina for 1990-91. In the first leg, played at Rosario Central’s Gigante de Arroyito, Eduardo Berizzo’s single goal put Newell’s in the driving seat and they came to Buenos Aires on 9 July with a 1-0 aggregate lead. The match was controversial in that both sides had to surrender key players to Argentina’s Copa America campaign which was ongoing at the time. Boca were without rising star Gabriel Batistuta, once of Newell’s, while Newell’s lost Fernando Gamboa to international duty. Boca were permitted to bring in a couple of players on loan (Reinoso from rivals River and the Brazilian Gaúcho from Flamengo) to help them secure the championship but Bielsa decided to stick with the squad that had brought him to the summit.
Boca dominated the return leg at La Bombonera but left it until the last quarter of the match to draw the aggregate score level via a goal from loanee Gerardo Reinoso. The match went to a crucial penalty shootout on the soggy Bombonera pitch. Newell’s goalkeeper, the long-haired Norberto Scoponi became the hero of the day, saving two penalties from Boca’s Graciani and Rodríguez. Berizzo, Llop and Zamora scored for Newell’s and then Pico’s shot crashed off the bar for Boca. Newell’s were champions of Argentina once more and a silent La Bombonera had to suffer the celebrations of Bielsa and his victorious team.
8 March 1992 – Rosario Central
What happened on 8 March in 1992 is one of the most celebrated Newell’s Old Boys matches in history and a victory for Newell’s that most teams can only dream of. While clubs can look back in history and cherish many derby day wins over their rivals, can many other clubs claim that their reserve team defeated their rivals’ full-strength lineup in a league match? The situation that forced Marcelo Bielsa to play a group of inexperienced youngsters against Rosario Central in the Clásico Rosarino seems ridiculous today. Newell’s Old Boys’ calendar was unavoidably crowded in 1992 as they contested a relentless Copa Libertadores campaign which had no concern for the regular domestic season in Argentina that the team was obliged to participate in. On 3 March, Newell’s defeated Coquimbo Unido of Chile 3-0 in Rosario before welcoming Colo-Colo to Rosario on 6 March. That match ended with another victory for Newell’s in which the home side scored three goals. Their third Libertadores clash in a week was scheduled for 9 March away to Universidad Católica in Chile, just one day after they were due to play the Clásico Rosarino against Rosario Central at the Arroyito. Bielsa knew there was no way his senior players would be able to play four games in a week. In a controversial move, he took his senior players to Chile to play in the Libertadores and instructed Juan Manuel Llop and Cristian Domizzi to stay at home and act as the experienced leaders on the field amongst a team of nine other youngsters.
On the day, a Newell’s team with an average age of 22 and with many of them making their full debuts, took to the field against Central and shocked the world. Cristian Domizzi, wearing the number 10 shirt, rose high at the near post to head a Rossi cross into the net after just 11 minutes. The youthful team held on for the next 79 minutes to secure a famous derby win against all the odds. Mention “Dia del Padre” (Father’s Day) to any Newell’s fan and it only means one thing: the day we won the Clásico with our reserve team. It was not officially Father’s Day in Argentina but it was the day that Rosario Central became our sons.
12 December 2004 – Independiente 2-0 Newell’s
Usually, the most special matches in the history of a football club won’t include a game that was lost, but Newell’s Old Boys are different. With Newell’s leading the Apertura tournament as 2004 came to an end, Américo Gallego’s side travelled to Independiente knowing a win would secure a first title for 12 years. However, anything less than that would allow Vélez Sarsfield in second position to draw level with a win away to Arsenal de Sarandí who they were due to play on the same day as Newell’s went to Avellaneda. Although away fans are largely banned from attending games in Argentina now, they were still permitted in 2004 and on the final day of the season, the numbers of Newell’s fans that travelled 300km from Rosario to the capital with the hope of witnessing another title win was unprecedented. 40,000 Newell’s fans made the trip and footage from that day shows scenes that are more typical of a home game at the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa for Newell’s, not an away trip to a different city.
An underwhelming performance on the day by a Newell’s team that boasted the skills of Ariel Ortega and the talent of promising youngsters like Fernando Belluschi and Ignacio Scocco, didn’t spoil our destiny. Independiente ran out 2-0 winners but Vélez had amazingly lost to Arsenal on a scoreline of 2-1, meaning Newell’s Old Boys were champions of Argentina. The day is immortalised in the famous Newell’s Old Boys song, ‘Rosario Te Alienta’ (roughly translated as “Rosario is behind you”):
(translated from Spanish)
Here the greatest in history played,
Here is where Leo Messi and Maradona played,
The team who won with Loco Bielsa,
Who took 40,000 to Avellaneda.