Recapturing the Copa Libertadores was Marcelo Gallardo’s ultimate goal when agreeing to stay on as River Plate manager last year, but the 41-year-old coach faces an uphill battle to progress after falling to a surprise 3-0 defeat away to Jorge Wilstermann.
River had their chances in Bolivia but an uncharacteristically sloppy defensive display allowed their quarter final opponents to take a commanding lead into next week’s second leg.
Edward Zenteno volleyed in unmarked from a corner after only four minutes to give Jorge Wilstermann the lead but the sense was that River would find a way back into the game.
A frustrating first half didn’t produce an equaliser and shortly after the break a diving header from Gilbert Álvarez doubled the home side’s lead.
Even at two-down, an away goal would have changed the complexion of the tie but River continued to spurn opportunities, none better than when Ignacio Scocco managed to volley over from six yards out with the goal wide open.
A two-goal deficit would have been bad but it got even worse for Marcelo Gallardo when Cristhian Machado thumped in a third from outside the penalty area.
Jorge Wilstermann were always going to be stronger on home soil and while River shouldn’t be counted out next Thursday, Gallardo knows that his side need to produce their best to reach the semi finals.