The drama surrounding River Plate’s failed doping tests may have caused the entire squad to be held behind at the Estadio Defensores del Chaco until the early hours but Marcelo Gallardo’s side put that behind them against Guaraní, with the help of a couple of new additions, to already place a foot in the quarter-finals.
River probably just about deserved their win but still needed a portion of luck to take such a commanding lead back to the Monumental in a few weeks.
Having already come close, River debutant Ignacio Scocco gave the visitors the breakthrough when his deflected free-kick wrongfooted goalkeeper Alfredo Aguilar before a powercut immediately delayed proceedings.
Scocco’s evening could well have taken a turn for the worse had referee Andrés Cunha brandished the second yellow card that the striker’s rash challenge on Robert Rojas warranted shortly after half time.
However, after Augusto Batalla kept River ahead with a smart save it was left for Marcelo Larrondo to head a decisive late second.
While River will rightly feel confident of sealing a quarter final spot ahead of their second leg, Godoy Cruz face an uphill struggle after suffering a 1-0 defeat to Grêmio in Mendoza.
The Brazilians are among the favourites for the tournament and took less than a minute to lead in the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas thanks to some sluggish defending and Ramiro’s unforgiving finish past Rodrigo Rey.
Lucas Bernardi will perhaps feel that his side’s second half display at least warranted a draw but missed opportunities could prove costly as El Tomba now travel to Porto Alegre needing victory.
Godoy Cruz 0 – 1 Grêmio
Guaraní 0 – 2 River Plate