COPA DE LA LIGA 2021
Newell’s Old Boys 1
🏟️ Estadio Marcelo Bielsa, Rosario
Frank Kudelka is approaching the tightrope at Newell’s Old Boys after the team fell to a third defeat in four games.
A poor performance in the first-half was La Lepra’s downfall. A draw might have been a fair result after Newell’s dug deep in the second-half to force an equaliser once Maxi Rodríguez grabbed a goal back but a lack of impotency throughout the game compounded the lacklustre opening 45 minutes.
After a nervy start, Newell’s went behind with just 8 minutes on the clock when Independiente’s Silvio Romero neat ball found ex-Newell’s man Sebastián Palacios free. ‘Tucu’ made no mistake with his finish, guiding it through the legs of Alan Aguerre. Palacios, who scored for Newell’s as lately as January 2021, refused to celebrate but his teammates looked ecstatic to go ahead so early in Rosario.
Newell’s tried to assert themselves after the goal and did dominate possession but it stood for little and consistently developed into wayward passes, cheap mistakes and punting the ball out of play when under pressure.
There were sparks of positivity around the end of the first quarter. Pablo Pérez’s Hollywood ball to Julián Marcioni nearly created an opening and Matías Orihuela secured Newell’s’ first on-target effort but danger at the other end never seemed far away.
With half an hour on the clock, Independiente added a second goal that was very similar to the first. They absorbed the pressure from Newell’s and waited for a chance to pounce and when they pounced, it was down the right wing again. On this occasion, it was Fabricio Bustos finishing off a smart pass from Menéndez with a nonchalant, stylish finish past Aguerre.
At half-time, Frank Kudelka introduced Jonatan ‘Churry’ Cristaldo for his debut, withdrawing the ineffective Alexís Rodríguez.
Newell’s stepped things up as the hour mark approached, playing with more intent and confidence. Manuel Llano, who surprisingly found himself hunting in the box, could have grabbed a goal back had he made a better connection with a 54th minute volley after a pinpoint ball over the top. Moments later, Cristaldo made his mark on the game by firing a fierce shot at goal which Independiente keeper Sebastián Sosa saved well.
Although Newell’s looked the more likely to score the first goal of the second-half, Alan Aguerre had to be at his very best to keep a magnificent free-kick from Silvio Romero from hitting the net after 69 minutes.
With just over fifteen minutes remaining, Newell’s finally scored, narrowing the gap to one goal. Manuel Llano, who grew in confidence throughout the second period, sent a ball from deep into the box and captain Maxi Rodríguez rose high to meet it. His header was on-target and gave Newell’s a valuable lifeline.
Llano, La Lepra’s brighest player in the second-half, pushed again for another goal with ten minutes remaining. After beating two Independiente players, he nearly put his name against a golazo but for a weak finish that saw the ball go over the bar.
Llano’s chance was to be the last serious opportunity that Newell’s had to draw level and as the final whistle sounded, Julio Falcioni celebrated a third successive win for Independiente while Frank Kudelka reflected on a fifth defeat in six games for Newell’s since the turn of the year.
Kudelka’s job is under serious pressure after winning just one point in the Copa de la Liga and the Newell’s board now have a difficult decision to make with a Copa Sudamericana campaign upcoming in April.
Is he the right coach to lead Newell’s forward on the continental stage?
Time will tell.