The Superliga got back underway on a hot Sunday evening in Avellaneda and with Marcelo Gallardo securing victory for the first time as manager at the Estadio Libertadores de América, River Plate climbed above Argentinos Juniors on goal difference at the top of the table.
Both River and Independiente looked short of sharpness after only a couple of weeks of training and it was ultimately the deadly finishing of Rafael Santos Borré that tipped the game in favour of the visitors.
The decisive second coming soon after Alexander Barboza was sent off just as Independiente were looking the more likely next goalscorers.
There is plenty of room for improvement but that aspect will have pleased Independiente’s new manager Lucas Pusineri. Aside from a bright opening in which Leandro Fernández should have opened the scoring it was a poor opening 45 minutes from El Rojo and River deservedly led.
A swift counter midway through the first half released Gonzalo Montiel, given extra license to roam forward in River’s changed formation, and the full-back’s pin-point cross found the head of an unmarked Rafael Santos Borré.
Martín Campaña could do little but despite the fact Independiente struggled to keep possession after the goal, the Uruguayan wasn’t worked a great deal by a River side clearly yet back up to speed.
And it almost cost the Millonarios. The second half was less than a minute old when Cecilio Domínguez clipped a cross into the box for captain Silvio Romero to head past Franco Armani.
The goal gave Independiente a renewed sense of belief and for the next fifteen minutes, El Rojo looked threatening. Pablo Pérez and Alexander Barboza both forced saved from Armani as Pusineri beckoned his team to attack River.
However, when Barboza mistimed a sliding challenge on Santos Borré a second yellow card was shown and the momentum swung back in favour of River. With the home defence reshuffled a lapse of concentration from Alan Franco was all it took for the Colombian to strike again. Paolo Díaz slid the ball into the box and with Franco not tight enough to Santos Borré, the 24-year-old took a splendid touch in his stride and fired past Campaña.
Even with the numerical disadvantage Independiente pushed forward in search of an equaliser but were unable to fashion a clear chance in the closing stages.
Both sides will expect to make significant improvements over the coming weeks and while for Independiente that will likely mean concentrating on the Copa Sudamericana, for River it is a first genuine league title challenge. Gallardo’s side are level on points with surprise package Argentinos Juniors and have a run-in that will leave supporters hopeful of adding yet another trophy.