Newell’s Old Boys 1
🏟️ Estadio Marcelo Bielsa, Rosario
194 days after Newell’s overcame Central Córdoba de Santiago del Estero in the Copa Superliga on 16 March 2020, the Rojinegro finally returned to the pitch. With the newly-named Liga Profesional de Fútbol yet to restart in Argentina, authorities permitted friendly matches for the first time this weekend, six weeks after football teams were allowed to resume training despite COVID-19 infections continuing to rise in the country.
A lot has happened since that day in March. Amidst the ongoing global disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Newell’s lost key players Cristian Lema (end of loan) and Luis Leal (sold to Club Tijuana in Mexico) but were strengthened by the return of club legend Ignacio Scocco.
Beginning his fourth spell at the club, Scocco ensured that Newell’s avoided defeat in Saturday’s pre-season friendly against Unión, making no mistake from the penalty spot after Mariano Bíttolo was fouled in the box.
Newell’s found themselves behind at the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa after just two minutes. In the first attack of the match, Unión won a corner which was whipped in and then knocked on to the head of Ezequiel Cañete who was loitering at the back post. Newell’s keeper Alan Aguerre appeared to keep Cañete’s header out with a fantastic save but replays showed it had already crossed the line.
Unión would still be in front after the unconventional 35-minute first half came to an end but Newell’s had them on the back foot after the opener. Efforts from Nadalín and Scocco were well saved by Sebastián Moyano. On the 15-minute mark, Alexis Rodríguez, who started in an attacking trio with cousin Maxi and the returning Scocco, was put through on goal but his fierce shot rattled off the inside of the post, rocketing back out again.
Surprise inclusion Nicolás Castro caused problems for Unión throughout the first half and is sure to have impressed manager Frank Kudelka. One of the highlights of the first-half saw Castro nutmeg two Unión players on the left flank before cooly passing to a teammate.
The second half saw fewer chances for both sides but Unión went close to doubling their lead, hitting the same post that denied Alexis Rodríguez in the first half. The equaliser came twenty minutes into a second half, or ten minutes from the end, as COVID-19 precautions meant this was a 65-minute match with a 35/30 split. Left-back Bíttolo was tripped by Rapallini and there was no doubt as to who would take the penalty. Scocco stepped up to score a goal at the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa for the first time since 2017, powering the spot-kick past Moyano in the Unión goal.
A goal apiece is how the match would end with Scocco saying afterwards:
“We started a little asleep, slow at times. But it is logical for the time that we are stopped and the preparation. But we have improved and that is the important thing. Personally I felt comfortable”.Ignacio Scocco
Although it was somewhat unrecognisable from what we know to be a Newell’s Old Boys match (the stadium rocking with fans, a full 90-minute match), the staging of a pre-season friendly is a huge step towards competitive action resuming and Saturday’s run out is likely to be the first in a series of matches designed to help with the squad with match fitness before they feel ready to contest a match where three points are on offer.
*In a second friendly match that took place after the match referred to above, a Newell’s reserve XI were defeated 1-2 by a Unión reserve XI. Enzo Cabera was the scorer for La Lepra.