Asprilla's perfect haul does trick for Newcastle

St James' Park, Newcastle – 17/09/1997 – Group stage
Asprilla 22 (P), 31, 49
3 - 2
  • Luis Enrique 73
  • Figo 89
Tactical masterclass

"When you see how easy the three goals were for Faustino Asprilla you can only admire him." Philippe Albert


• Slovakia's first UEFA Champions League representatives, 1. FC Kosice, became the first side to fail to pick up a single point during their group stage campaign, scoring two goals in six outings.

• Four matches drew crowds of 100,000: FC Dynamo Kyiv's home games against Newcastle United FC, Barcelona and Juventus, and the first leg of the Real Madrid CF-Borussia Dortmund semi-final.

• At 17 years and 195 days, Peter Ofori-Quaye became the UEFA Champions League's youngest scorer when he struck Olympiacos FC's consolation in a 5-1 group-stage loss away to Rosenborg BK.

Newcastle United FC announced their arrival on European club football's biggest stage in dramatic fashion with a rousing 3-2 victory against FC Barcelona crowned by a Faustino Asprilla hat-trick.

Urged on by an animated St James's Park, alive to its first ever UEFA Champions League tie, Asprilla rattled off three goals inside the opening 47 minutes for a rampant Newcastle. It left Barcelona, boasting a star-studded lineup including Rivaldo, Luis Enrique and Luís Figo, in a state of shock but the Spanish titleholders threatened a late recovery in a grandstand finish.

For a long time it was all about Asprilla. The Colombia striker began as he meant to go on, drawing an early free-kick from Michael Reiziger with his dazzling footwork, and then exchanging passes with John Barnes, who put Jon Dahl Tomasson through for a chance that went wide.

Tomasson soon returned the compliment, playing Asprilla in on goal midway through the first half with a slide-rule pass the forward reached before goalkeeper Ruud Hesp. The forward tumbled under the challenge and Pierluigi Collina pointed to the spot; the 27-year-old converted the penalty himself.

Not content with preserving their advantage, Kenny Dalglish's side continued to press and doubled their lead just past the half-hour mark with a goal of beautiful simplicity. Keith Gillespie hared down the right and curled a perfect cross for Asprilla to attack at the near post with a thumping header.

Four minutes into the second half the hosts were three up, Gillespie again leaving Sergi in his wake before dispatching another centre for Asprilla to head in for his hat-trick – and customary cartwheel. The visitors could contain neither Gillespie nor Asprilla and the pair combined again soon after; Hesp denied the South American a fourth.

Gradually, though the Azulgrana stirred to life, Miguel Ángel Vidal forcing Shay Given to tip over, before a neat move involving Rivaldo and Figo was turned in at close range by Luis Enrique on 73 minutes. The Newcastle goalkeeper thwarted Rivaldo after a sumptuous turn and shot by the Brazilian, who then curled a free-kick against the bar.

With a minute to go Given fumbled a corner which Warren Barton could only clear as far as Figo, who fired it back through a crowded penalty area to make for a tense finale. But the rally was too little, too late – this was Newcastle and Asprilla's night. He never scored for the side again.

Star players

  • Asprilla

    As unpredictable off the field as he was on it, Asprilla was a forward of rare talent. Fleet-footed, languid and skilful, he won the 1993 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, two UEFA Cups and a UEFA Super Cup in two stints at Parma FC and endeared himself to Newcastle Untied FC fans with a UEFA Champions League hat-trick against FC Barcelona. 'Tino' also scored 20 goals in 56 appearances for Colombia.

  • Luis Enrique

    One of an elite club of players to represent both Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona, Luis Enrique was a diminutive, prolific midfielder who scored 100 club goals, winning the Liga title and the Copa del Rey with Madrid before doubling that tally in an eight-year spell at the Camp Nou. The Spain captain also lifted the 1996/97 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and was capped 62 times before switching to coaching.

  • Figo

    The leader of Portugal's golden generation, Figo was a mainstay of the national side for 15 years. A product of the Sporting Clube de Portugal academy, he enjoyed great success at FC Barcelona and it took a world-record transfer to lure him to Real Madrid CF in 2000. More titles followed, including the Ballon d'Or and 2002 UEFA Champions League, before Figo ended his career at FC Internazionale Milano, winning the Scudetto in each of his four seasons in Italy.

What happened next?

• Newcastle United FC's promising start to their debut UEFA Champions League campaign faltered thereafter, their next win arriving in the final group game against FC Dynamo Kyiv as the Magpies finished third.

• FC Barcelona fared even worse, finishing bottom of Group B despite beating Newcastle 1-0 at the Camp Nou. Heavy defeats by Andriy Shevchenko-inspired Dynamo, 4-0 at home, proved particularly damaging.

• Dynamo bowed out in the quarter-finals against Juventus, one of two teams to advance from the group stage as best runners-up. The Italian side went all the way to the final where they lost to Real Madrid CF.

• Newcastle finished 13th in the Premier League but did reach the FA Cup final, losing 2-0 to Arsenal FC. Twelve months later Manchester United FC brought more disappointment in the Wembley showpiece.

• Barcelona rallied from European disappointment to win the Spanish league and Cup double and retained the Liga in 1999, their centenary year, when Rivaldo was voted European Footballer of the Year.


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