After the disappointment of a surprise defeat to Deportivo Lara on the opening day, Independiente got their Copa Libertadores campaign up and running on Thursday night with victory over Millonarios in Avellaneda.
Ariel Holan had assured supporters that his side would respond to the lacklustre display that ended with defeat in Venezuela and during a terrific opening 45 minutes, El Rojo did just that.
Argentina’s latest squad members Fabricio Bustos and the impressive Maxi Meza caused Millonarios problems down the right and with Martín Benítez buzzing in behind Emmanuel Gigliotti and Juan Sánchez Miño stretching play down the left, the Colombians were struggling to contain their hosts.
Independiente had been knocking on the door when the breakthrough came after 23 minutes. Meza and Bustos again combined down the right and when the latter looked up to pick his cross he saw Martín Benítez free on the edge of the box. The increasingly consistent Benítez controlled the ball and picked his spot, finishing cooly past Venezuelan international Wuilker Fariñez.
Independiente will have felt that they should perhaps have been further ahead but after Benítez was withdrawn at the break, El Rojo lost momentum and invited pressure from Millonarios.
The Colombian side saw plenty of the ball and worked it into promising areas but failed to really test Martín Campaña.
A far nervier second half than Independiente expected played out but El Rojo held on for a vital three points.
Corinthians visit Avellaneda next for Ariel Holan’s side and anther victory will be needed ahead of tricky away trips to Brazil and Colombia.