Newell’s Old Boys lost out on their place in the Copa Libertadores Final as they squandered their first leg lead in Belo Horizonte against Atletico Miniero and ended up experiencing the cruellest of cup exits on penalties. Leading 2-0 from the first leg in Rosario, Manager, Gerardo Martino had promised to attack Miniero and was all too aware of the dangers that the Brasilians posed but in the end his side came up just short. An early goal from wonderkid, Bernard and a late strike from Guilherme sent the tie straight to the dreaded penalties and as both sides missed countless opportunities it eventually fell to two of the most experienced players on the pitch: Ronaldinho converted and then Maxi Rodriguez saw his effort saved to send Miniero into the final to face Paraguay’s, Olimpia.
With the attacking prowess that Atletico Miniero have they would have always fancied their chances at overhauling the two-goal-deficit and they got the dream start. After just 3 minutes Ronaldinho was able to thread the crucial pass, that he had failed to do in the first leg, and found the pacy Bernard. In one motion the youngster ran onto the ball and expertly finished past Nahuel Guzman.
The game was well and truly back on but got worse for Newell’s in the next few moments. Influential defender, Gabriel Heinze limped off before the half hour mark at the time when Newell’s could have done with his experience.
Despite this Newell’s soaked up much of the pressure that Miniero exerted on them. Bernard, Ronaldinho, Diego Tardelli and Jo were more of a latent threat than causing Guzman’s goal any real cause for alarm. Midway through the second half the floodlights failed and so there was a holdup for 10 minutes or so which added to the tension but when the game got back underway it looked as though Newell’s may have done enough to cling on.
However, with time running down a weak clearance from Diego Mateo only got as far as substitute, Guilherme and he fired the ball back through the crowd and into the bottom corner sending the Brasilian crowd into rapture and the tie to penalties.
Atletico Miniero took the first kick which was coolly placed into the top corner by Alecsandro putting the pressure on Newell’s top scorer, Ignacio Scocco. Having missed his previous 3 penalties you might have been forgiven for thinking he would be lacking confidence but Scocco opted for the chip down the middle to level the shootout. Guillerme and Santiago Vergini then both scored to stay level before both sides tried their best to throw it away. The next 4 penalties were missed and so it all came down to the fifth and final kick. Ronaldinho kept his cool to send Nahuel Guzman the wrong way and then the unfortunate, Maxi Rodriguez saw his penalty saved by hero, Victor.
Newell’s Old Boys battled all the way until the end as they have throughout the campaign but it will be Atletico Miniero facing Olimpia in the final. Now Newell’s must look to the future as manager, Gerardo Martino and striker, Nacho Scocco say goodbye to Rosario for pastures new and Newell’s have the unenviable task of replacing both.