Marcelo Gallardo may have kept his big guns on the bench until late on but it was enough for River Plate to continue their fine run of form, defeat Melgar and confirm their place in the Copa Libertadores last 16.
River’s unbeaten start to the tournament already had qualification virtually sewn up but three points in Arequipa made certain and when early goals from Lucas Alario and Camilo Mayada put the visitors two-up it looked as though it would be an easy night for Gallardo’s second-string.
To their credit, Melgar fought back and an Omar Fernández volley before half time followed by an Emanuel Herrera goal on the hour mark had the home side level.
Nacho Fernández had been thrown on by Gallardo to wrestle back authority and the midfielder reestablished the lead with a brave dive heading. River held on and with a game to spare in Group Three are in the hat for the next round.
Estudiantes’ fate was already out of their hands so even an impressive 3-0 win over Barcelona in Ecuador couldn’t prevent El Pincha from slipping out of this year’s Copa Libertadores at the group stage.
Juan Ignacio Cavallaro fired the visitors ahead midway through the first half following up a bad miss from Javier Toledo that came back off the post and Facundo Sánchez added two more after the break but with Botafogo beating champions Atlético Nacional, the result in Guayaquil didn’t matter.