COPA LIGA PROFESIONAL DE FUTBOL
Newell’s Old Boys 4
🏟️ Estadio Ciudad de Lanús, Buenos Aires Province
Having lost their two opening games of the Copa Liga de Profesional, Newell’s needed something different. Manager Frank Kudelka recognised that his tactics were not working and made four changes for Saturday’s trip to Lanús.
With goalkeeper Alan Aguerre suffering a dislocated elbow, in came Ramiro Macagno for his first league game while Fabricio Fontanini returned from a ban to take his place in defence. Facundo Nadalin started at right-back after the Uruguayan Ángelo Gabrielli was pulled from the team shortly before the match having come into contact with a COVID-19 case.
However, the most intriguing and effective change came further up the field.
Julián Fernández was diagnosed with COVID-19 during the week and instead of replacing him with a like-for-like defensive midfielder in Jerónimo Cacciabue, Kudelka pushed Pablo Pérez and Aníbal Moreno into a deeper couplet, drew Maxi Rodríguez into the number 10 role and gave a start to youngster Francisco ‘Panchito’ González on the wide left of a three-man attack.
Inside the opening ten minutes, it already seemed like a tactical shift that would prove smart. Panchito González’s raw energy caused Lanús problems from the off while allowing Maxi a more flexible role with less running required suited his experience on the ball.
Backup keeper Macagno had a shaky opening five minutes. Newell’s fans held their breaths after he initially misjudged a long ball that dropped outside his box, forcing him to retreat back towards the goal line. Lanús couldn’t take advantage of his mistake and he recovered well to save a shot from a tight angle, setting a precedent for his performance for the rest of the match.
Newell’s would test the opposing goalkeeper Lautaro Morales on a number of occasions in the first half. First, Sebastián Palacios cut inside the box, forcing the Lanús number one into a good save. Moments later, he struggled to hold a long-range effort from Panchito González, watching the ball trickle out for a corner after it at ricocheted off his gloves.
The opening goal came from a set-piece on 24 minutes. Mariano Bíttolo, the leading provider of goals in last year’s Argentina Superliga, whipped a free-kick into the box and centre-back Fabricio Fontanini was left completely unmarked to head home for Newell’s.
Lanús nearly responded immediately from a free-kick of their own but Macagno looked cool and confident under pressure from high balls. Ignacio Scocco could have added a second after half an hour but the Newell’s forward had a placed shot saved by Morales and then fell victim to an outstanding defensive block moments later when he found himself in a promising position inside the box.
La Lepra went into the break a goal ahead but were soon two to the good after the second-half got underway. In the best move of the match, Aníbal Moreno led a counter-attack up the field after Lanús had failed to capitalise from a corner. Moreno waited for support and just as Sebastián Palacios turbo-boosted into a forward position, Moreno played him in. Palacios could have passed to a number of Newell’s colleagues who were in support but he took the decision to go himself and rifled a stunning shot past Morales in the Lanús goal.
Newell’s second goal was like a knife through the heart of Lanús. The shellshocked Granate started to misplace passes at both ends of the pitch; a far cry from the side who had just knocked Sāo Paulo out of the Copa Sudamericana.
Newell’s added a third goal from another set-piece on 67 minutes with Santiago Gentiletti making sure that both centre-backs scored with their heads. Gentiletti went off with a knock seconds later, having done enough to help the rojinegro power to victory.
However, five minutes after that, José Sand conjured up a glimmer of hope for the home side as he pulled one back.
What followed put the cherry on the top of the cake from Newell’s. Straight from kick-off after the consolation, Sebastián Palacios ran up the right flank and played a delightful low ball into the path of captain Maxi Rodríguez for a tap-in. Newell’s had scored a fourth and the captain had got his goal, 21 years to the day since he made his debut for his hometown club.
Frank Kudelka saw an opportunity to withdraw a number of players after Newell’s went 1-4 up and introduced Nico Castro, Matteo Maccari and Mauro Formica for the hardworking Maxi, González and Moreno.
Substitute Castro nearly added a fifth late on until the 40-year-old Lanús captain Sand bundled one over the line just before the final whistle was blown in Lanús.
It ended 2-4 to a confident Newell’s side who now move into third in Group 4 of the Copa Liga de Profesional, ahead of Lanús who are left with one point from three games.
Frank Kudelka will be delighted with the players he called upon to make an impact. Ramiro Macagno played with an air of confidence throughout, while Panchito González brings an energy to the side that we cannot do without.
After two disappointing performances in the opening two matches, Pablo Pérez looked comfortable in a deeper role. Facundo Nadalin didn’t expect to be playing but he thrived on the opportunity presented by the absence of Gabrielli.
The final word must be given to Maxi Rodríguez who scored 21 years on from making his debut for the club he loves.
An icon, leader and legend at 39 years old. How lucky we are.