COPA DE LA LIGA 2021
Newell’s Old Boys 0
🏟️ Estadio Marcelo Bielsa, Rosario
Germán Burgos watched as his Newell’s side played out a goalless draw at the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa in his opening game as manager of the Lepers.
He had only spent three days with the players but from the start, it was obvious that Burgos had put his stamp on the team. Gone was Frank Kudelka’s 4-4-2 and 4-3-2-1 formations as Burgos started with a flat back three, altering between a 3-2-3-2 when attacking and a 5-2-2-1 when attacking. He put his faith in youth, starting Juan Sforza, Manuel Capasso and Justo Giani.
Capasso was the focus of most of his first-half instructions. “Capo, Capo” could be heard from the sidelines as Burgos encouraged the 24-year-old, who was perhaps playing as part of a back three for the first time in his short career. He reacted to El Mono’s words, staying calm under pressure, winning a number of important tackles and his confidence grew throughout the match.
The first-half was a tense affair. Burgos’ Newell’s defended in packs, like Simeone’s Atlético Madrid, and initiated a deep defensive line, allowing Unión to take the initiative and attack. They yielded five shots on goal in the first-half, coming closest to opening the scoring on 23 minutes when Peñailillo found himself clear on goal, taking advantage of the narrow Newell’s back three. With a free shot on goal, he attempted to drive the ball to the left of Alan Aguerre but the Lepra keeper called his bluff, pushing the ball wide and out for a corner.
Newell’s were happy to nullify the Unión threat for the rest of the half but Pablo Pérez did go close after 39 minutes, forcing Moyano into a low save from his edge-of-the-box drive.
Both teams had penalty shouts at the end of the first-half but the referee booked Unión’s Marquez for a dive in the box at the Newell’s end and waved away Pablo Pérez when he went down in the Unión box moments later.
With the game goalless at half-time, Germán Burgos introduced Manuel Llano for the ineffective Justo Giani and it nearly paid dividends immediately.
With Llano settling into the right wing-back position, captain Maxi Rodríguez found him bursting forward with no Unión player for company. Hitting a first time shot, Llano dragged his shot just wide of the far post. He went so close to opening the scoring for the home side.
With just short of an hour played, Unión thought they should have had a penalty when the ball struck Cristian Lema’s hand as it was fired across the box. It was a case of Lema not being able to take his hand out of the way fast enough and the absence of VAR in Argentina meant La Lepra were off the hook.
Newell’s had the chance of the match with just under 20 minutes to play. Jerónimo Cacciabue, on as a second-half sub, whipped a corner into the box and it was met by the head of the rising Manuel Capasso. Capasso connected with it perfectly but it was inches wide of the post. If Newell’s were to score, that seemed like the ultimate chance.
El Mono Burgos made full use of his substitutes bench, making four further changes in the second-half and bringing on Juan Manuel Freytes for his first appearance for two years. Freytes played well, stopping a number of Unión attacks on the left flank and contributing to build-up play as Newell’s looked for a winner.
That winner never came and a tight game ended goalless at the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa which was probably a fair result taking all things into consideration.
It’s only the second time this season that Newell’s have gained a point. Germán Burgos would have hoped for a win but at this stage, avoiding defeat is good enough for a Newell’s side yet to win 3 points in 2021, especially against Unión who are still unbeaten in the 2021 Copa de la Liga.
The team was much improved at the back but still lacked potency up front. Newell’s’ lack of goals will bother Burgos and it’s an issue that has to be faced head-on in the coming weeks with fixtures against Atlético Tucumán and Huracán on the horizon.