Sebastián Beccacece made his feelings very clear at full-time after his Defensa y Justicia slipped out of the Copa Sudamericana in controversial circumstances. A VAR disallowed goal denied El Halcón a third goal before half time and Junior’s eventual second half strike ensured it was the Colombians who progressed on away goals.
Trailing by two and without the comfort of a goal in Medellín, Defensa y Justicia had it all to do back in Argentina but a blistering second leg could and perhaps should have wiped out Junior’s advantage.
Playing in Independiente’s nearby and far larger Estadio Libertadores de América, it was a former Rojo who gave Defensa y Justicia an early lead on the night. Leonel Miranda’s superb volley broke the deadlock and served to invigorate Beccacece’s side with half an hour of the opening period still remaining.
Nicolás Fernández pounced on some woeful defending to double the lead on the night and moments before the break, the striker thought he had put Defensa y Justicia ahead in the tie. Domingo Blanco thread a perfect pass through and Fernández confidently tucked it away only to see his celebrations denied minutes later when after a VAR review, referee Raphael Claus spotted a push in the build up.
Beccacece fumed at the decision but didn’t need to wait long in the second half for Fernández to deliver number three. Junior’s defence was once again absent and the 22-year-old volleyed in from close range to put El Halcón in front for the first time.
At this point there appeared only one winner. Junior had been thoroughly outplayed and looked unlikely to regain their advantage. However, a rare foray towards the Defensa y Justicia saw Luis Díaz find a pocket of space on the edge of the box and his snap shot whistled past Ezequiel Unsain.
All square on aggregate, Junior’s away goal left Defensa y Justicia needing another and although Fabián Bordagaray volleyed against the bar, El Halcón couldn’t quite find it.
The Copa Sudamericana adventure came to an end, Beccacece accused the officials of robbery and while elimination will hurt, it should also serve as a reminder of how far the club has come. Still unbeaten in the league, Defensa y Justicia have twice now had runs in the Copa Sudamericana and a place in the Copa Libertadores in future can’t be ruled out.