When El Rojo downed the Old Lady to be crowned world champions

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Ahead of Independiente’s Copa Sudamericana semi final, Stephen Brandt takes a look back to El Rojo’s famous side of 1973.

The 1970s was a golden era for Independiente, as they would win twelve major titles, win the Copa Libertadores four years in a row and compete for the Intercontinental Cup on three occasions. However, for our purposes we are going to talk about the 1973 season that was seen out under the tutelage of former Independiente and River Plate right back Roberto Ferreiro.

El Rojo started off the year defending their title from 1972 in the 1973 edition of the Copa Libertadores. Being the defending champions they were placed in the semifinal group stage, where they progressed to the final with relative ease, only losing to Millonarios in their first match of the tournament.

The final was played over two legs, but unlike the aggregate system that dictates modern football, the Libertadores final demanded a third deciding match in the event of a tie.

Chilean club Colo Colo stood between Independiente and a fourth Libertadores title and after two tight encounters, a dramatic playoff was required.

The first leg in Avellaneda, a small city just south of Buenos Aires, ended one a piece, with Mario Mendoza netting for Independiente after defender Francisco Sá’s own goal had give Colo Colo the lead.

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They moved onto Santiago, where they played to a 0-0 tie, however this forced the final to a third playoff match to be played in Montevideo a week later. A 1-1 draw in the Estadio Centenario forced the tie to extra time and eventually Miguel Ángel Giachello sealed the victory for El Rojo.

Having successfully defended their Libertadores title, Independiente qualified for 1973 Intercontinental Cup with the previous year’s 2-1 win over Universitario of Peru. The Intercontinental Cup, was always a weird cup competition, and it was made way for the Club World Club Cup. The violence on the pitch with the South American clubs finally drove the European clubs out. One just needs to look at the Battle of Montevideo, the Estudiantes v AC Milan match, or some of the other countless other problems.

Most of the Intercontinental Cup matches were played over two legs – one in Europe and the other in South America, however Juventus and Independiente would play in the Olympic Stadium in Rome on November 28th.

It was the second straight year for Independiente in the competition, having lost the year before to Johan Cruyff’s Ajax. Juventus originally didn’t want to play the match, but after Ajax pulled out due to financial reasons, they accepted. This time Independiente weren’t going to lose and it was made a one off, instead of the two legs that it had been before.

Some footage is still left from this match, but not many reports are left from it. The match was mostly dominated by the Italians, with several missed chances and Antonello Cuccureddu missing from the penalty spot. Finally, in the 80th minute Independiente legend Ricardo Bochini put the ball in the back of the net for the win.

Independiente would go back the next year to the Intercontinental Cup, and lose to Atlético Madrid, the Madrid side would be the only runner up to the European Cup who would play in the Intercontinental Cup, and win it. The Intercontinental Cup would not be played in 1975 and 1978, with Toyota taking it over in 1980 and moving it to Japan. Independiente wouldn’t be back for another ten years, where they’d famously beat Liverpool.

Stephen Brandt
@yellowcardscb
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