COPA DIEGO ARMANDO MARADONA
Newell’s Old Boys 0
Vélez Sarsfield 1
🏟️ Estadio Marcelo Bielsa, Rosario
If you don’t take chances, you lose games. It’s the age-old football cliché that proves true most weekends. Newell’s Old Boys of Rosario were the victims on Sunday night (3 January) when their failure to convert a number of clear goal opportunities played into the hands of their opponents Vélez Sarsfield who returned to Buenos Aires with a valuable three points in the Copa Diego Maradona.
Mauricio Pellegrino’s players will feel unbelievably lucky to have won this game having watched Newell’s hit the post, skim the post and fluff shot after shot. However, their goalkeeper Lucas Hoyos, starting after two of their other goalkeepers were ruled out, does not escape without praise and he was undoubtedly central to stopping Newell’s with an impressive record of 7 saves from 7 shots on-target.
In contrast, Vélez only hit the target twice but one of those shots would prove decisive.
After the end of the first-half, it could have gone either way. Maxi Rodríguez should have opened the scoring on 15 minutes. After good work from young Manuel Llano, starting at right-back for the first time in his career, and Sebastian Palacios, Maxi found himself with a free shot from 6 yards out. Uncharacteristically, it was weak, low and easily gathered by Hoyos.
Maxi’s cousin Alexís was the next to go close. After a pinpoint cross from Llano, Alexís directed a free header wide of the post, failing to trouble the Vélez stopper.
At the other end, Newell’s keeper Ramiro Macagno, on-loan from Atlético de Rafaela, sprung into action to keep Vélez from going ahead with ten minutes to go until half-time. Macagno, who was impressive throughout, got his fingertips to a Lucero header that looked destined to hit the back of the net.
Alexís Rodríguez was at the centre of things in the second-half again and could have been responsible for a spectacular golazo to put Newell’s ahead on 57 minutes but his acrobatic bicycle kick was wide of the post.
As Newell’s pushed for an opening goal, through Tucu Palacios and Maxi Rodríguez, who rattled the post with twenty minutes left, it was when Newell’s looked most likely to score that their opponents struck.
The Newell’s backline failed to clear a corner from the left and after a goalmouth scramble the ball fell to defender Miguel Brizuela who drove home his first career goal through a crowded Newell’s box on 74 minutes.
It was punishment for the number of chances Newell’s wasted up to then but Vélez keeper Hoyos still had to be at his best to deny late efforts from Palacios and Maxi Rodríguez.
Vélez now move on to 9 points in Group B of the “Complementación” Phase, joint with Newell’s, meaning Frank Kudelka’s side need a result next weekend away to Racing to try and secure a place in the final of the Phase in which the leaders will play for a place in the 2022 Copa Sudamericana.
While Newell’s are still without a long list of injured first team players, the return of Ignacio Scocco to training this week is a boost, especially considering the number of goalscoring chances missed by La Lepra against Vélez.