COPA DE LA LIGA 2021
Defensa y Justicia 4
Newell’s Old Boys 0
🏟️ Estadio Norberto “Tito” Tomaghello, Buenos Aires
Frank Kudelka’s spell as Newell’s manager ended in shame as La Lepra were outclassed by Defensa y Justicia in Florencia Varela.
The four-goal defeat was our sixth loss of 2021 and we still only have a single point to show from 5 games in the Copa de la Liga.
The Copa Sudamericana champions were better than Newell’s in every area of the pitch. Well-oiled, energetic, clinical, El Halcón are everything that we are not at the moment.
Make no mistake, although still not a well-known name outside of the country, Defensa y Justicia are now a top tier side in Argentina. Their Football Manager-like rise to the top, from amateur side, to professional side, rising up from the lower divisions to make the Primera in 2014 and then winning the Copa Sudamericana 2020 is unprecedented. Their ground, which holds 10,000 spectators, is one of the smallest in the Primera but what they don’t have in capacity, they make up in heart, ability, skill and determination.
They are a joy to watch and Newell’s Old Boys were the perfect opposition for them to meet tonight. They were able to fully display the extent of their power against a side that offered little to no challenge whatsoever.
Surprisingly, Newell’s actually started brightly and Defensa hardly touched the ball in the opening five minutes with Scocco and full debutant Justo Giani looking lively.
But it wasn’t long before La Lepra’s confidence was knocked, never to recover. On 7 minutes, left-back Marcelo Benítez stepped up to take a free-kick at the edge of the Newell’s box and with Defensa’s first shot on target, he curled the ball into the top corner past Alan Aguerre.
Having gone a goal behind, Justo Giani thought he’d equalised on his full debut just ten minutes later. When a dangerous corner was headed down by Cristian Lema into the path of Giani, the ex-Quilmes forward fired the ball into the roof of the net but the flag was up and he was deemed offside by the linesman.
Marcelo Benítez was again the unlikely scorer of Defensa’s second when he secured a first-half brace with a spectacular long-range effort which caught Alan Aguerre off his line. He could have had a hat-trick before the break when the home side were awarded another free-kick in a dangerous position. With 43 minutes on the clock, Aguerre came out on top to keep it at 2-0, pushing away Benítez’s set-piece drive.
Benítez was undoubtedly the figure of the first-half as Defensa left the field with a comfortable two-goal cushion after 45 minutes of play.
The experienced Newell’s midfielder Pablo Pérez was introduced at half-time, with youngster Ramiro Sordo making way, his full debut coming to a premature end.
Three minutes into the second-half and any hope of Newell’s getting back into the game was dashed when Alan Aguerre recklessly rushed out and slide-tackled the oncoming Walter Bou. While Aguerre got the ball, he took the man first and referee Fernando Rapallini pointed to the spot.
Bou, the victim of the foul, took the penalty and made no mistake, sending Aguerre the wrong way. From then on, the match was a breeze for Beccacece’s men.
Kudelka’s triple substitution after 65 minutes unsettled the team even more and seconds after Belluschi, Sforza and Cristaldo entered the pitch, Francisco Pizzini added a fourth, tapping in Bou’s low cross.
Franco Negri had a long shot signed by ex-Newell’s keeper Unsain as the 70th minute mark approached and that was to be the last real chance for Kudelka’s side.
When the final whistle sounded, Defensa y Justicia’s coach Sebastián Beccacece, a Newell’s fan who has constantly avoided the managerial job at the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa, stormed straight down the tunnel without celebrating while his opposite number Frank Kudelka now finds himself unemployed.
With Newell’s set to play Unión at home next weekend, it’s unclear if a new manager will be in place to take the team for that match. According to reports, the club is in negotiations with Germán Burgos but his contract demands are outside the budget of the rojinegros. If an appointment hasn’t been made by the weekend, the likely caretaker manager is ex-player Fabián Garfagnoli.
Whoever comes in, it’s now looking like they might be sucked into a relegation battle in 2022 considering the negative impact that the horrendous start under Kudelka is likely to have on our promedios average score.