Marcelo Bielsa is one of the great Argentine coaches. And recognized worldwide for his personality, his style of play, his stamp …
It could be said that everything that was later seen in the career of DT Rosario began to take shape in Newell’s champion of the 1990/1991 season. On July 9, 1991, 30 years ago, Lepra beat Boca in La Bombonera the penalty shootout of the First Division Championship and Loco celebrated his first title.
Newell’s campaign can be divided into two parts. In that tournament the AFA had decided to play two separate competitions: the Apertura, which Newell’s won, and the Clausura, which Boca won. The champion of the season would emerge from two games, roundtrip, that both winners would play against each other.
Newell’s had triumphed in the Apertura with an enormous campaign: they had 28 points, with 11 wins, six draws and two losses (in those days there were two points per game won). He added 30 goals in favor, the most effective forward, and 13 against. Second had been River, with 26, who had lost home to Vélez 2 to 1 on the last date.
The squad was largely made up of players from the club’s lower ranks, and the training came out many times from memory. In the last match of the Apertura, which drew 1 to 1 with San Lorenzo in the Ferro court, he formed with: Norberto Scoponi; Julio Saldaña, Fernando Gamboa, Mauricio Pochettino and Eduardo Berizzo; Darío Franco, Juan Manuel Llop and Gerardo Martino; Julio Zamora, Cristian Ruffini and Ariel Boldrini.
That team that was crowned in the Apertura had a solid base, set up by José Yudica, DT who with Newell’s had come out as champion in 1987/1988. El Loco strengthened that team, which with great physical strength had Jorge Castelli as a physical trainer.
The second part of the tournament, the Clausura, was missing. There it was Boca that consolidated itself as a great team under the guidance of Maestro Tabárez, with Latorre and Batistuta as decisive pieces. Xeneize came out first, and Newell’s finished in eighth place with 20 points, 12 behind the leader.
In the Clausura, Lepra won six games, drew eight and lost five, with 21 goals in favor and 14 against. A mediocre campaign, which gave alarms in the face of what would be the definition by the title.
Sure, both Boca and Newell’s, winners of the Apertura and Clausura, had celebrated those achievements like a championship, but for the AFA the champion had to emerge from the final match.
Boca arrived better, because it had just won the Apertura and had a good footballing moment, while Newell’s arrived with a decrease in its performance: several months had passed since the conquest of the Clausura. “We weren’t playing well, but I still had a lot of faith in me,” Bielsa acknowledged after the final won.
Although in the second tournament he started winning the first two games, against Platense and Argentinos, he was losing ground in the following days. It remains the same, for the memory, the win 4 to 0 against Central, the classic from Rosario, a match that ended up suspended due to incidents in the stands. Boca, meanwhile, had beaten him on date 17 by 1 to 0 with a goal from Hrabina.
Thus, it was time for the final, which Boca arrived with three more points in the accumulated of the two tournaments (51 to 48). But it was clear that there was a lot of parity between both teams.
The finals confirmed it: in Rosario, Newell’s won 1-0 with a goal from Berizzo. Boca won 1-0 at La Bombonera, with both Gerardo Reinoso. And it all went to penalties.
It should be remembered that the AFA had decided to summon two players from each squad for the Copa América that was being played at that time.
Thus, Boca lost Latorre and Batistuta, the soul of the forward midfield team. Tabárez was able to replace them with the additions of Gerardo Reinoso and the Brazilian Renato Gaucho.
Bielsa decided to bet, as he had been doing, on the Inferiors. And he did not hire reinforcements by Fernando Gamboa and Darío Franco, also two fundamental players for DT, who were called to the albiceleste by Coco Basile.
In the second leg, Newell’s formed with: Norberto Scoponi; Fabian Garfagnoli, Mauricio Pochettino, Eduardo Berizzo and Miguel Angel Fullana, Gerardo Martino, Juan Manuel Llop, Julio Saldaña and Julio Zamora, Ariel Cozzoni and Cristian Domizi.
After Boca’s triumph in La Bombonera, it was time for the definition from the penalty spot, after 30 minutes of a long-suffering extension.
On penalties, a huge Scoponi (he saved Alfredo Graciani and Claudio Rodríguez’s shots), plus Walter Pico’s deflected shot, gave Newell’s a historic title.
It was the beginning of Bielsa’s career as a coach, and the emergence of players who would later become great references as footballers and coaches: Pochettino, Berrizo, Martino, Llop … Without a doubt, Bielsa’s first title was a historic achievement, the beginning of a path that left a lot to remember.