Newcastle United 3 (Asprilla 22’ (pen), 31’, 49’)
Barcelona 2 (Luis Enrique 73’, Luis Figo, 89’)
Champions League (Group C), 17 September 1997
The 1990s threw up some wild and wacky European nights, most of which exist in some Swiss cheese brain void I can’t quite remember.
But this one — Newcastle United 3, Barcelona 2 — from 1997 has lingered. Not just because this was the Magpies’ first-ever game in the Champions League group stages, nor that they trumped what we now know to be the impenetrable trophy hoarders of the Camp Nou. Rather, because it was arguably Faustino Asprilla’s best-ever game for Newcastle.
(As the commentator notes about :30 in after Tino’s first, a coolly taken penalty, he “looks like he’s in the mood.”)
Asprilla will be remembered mainly for his volatility and boundless energy, but on a good day, he thrived. Of course, neither Newcastle nor Barca escaped the group — Dynamo Kiev rode their two-headed strike beast of Sergei “Flopped at Tottenham” Rebrov and Andrei “Flopped at Chelsea” Shevchenko to a group-topping triumph — which rendered the thrilling night at St. james’s Park rather moot in the final analysis.
(Another great commentator moment: about 3 1/2 minutes in, as Asprilla nods in goal number 2, we get the gem that he “leaps like a gazelle” for the ball.)
But no matter. Enjoy Tino, the wild wing wonder of Keith “Coulda Been Amazing” Gillespie, WARREN BARTON HAIR!, Sergi Barjuan looking entirely fallible as Barca right-back, and a hideous Bologna-esque hodgepodge of a Blaugrana kit that looks as bad as any kit they have worn over the last two decades.