Independiente were in need of a response after the weekend’s embarrassing clásico defeat to Racing Club and while it was hardly a performance to silence the critics it was a much needed victory over Fortaleza.
El Rojo will head to the north of Brazil in a couple of weeks to finish the job and secure a place in the Copa Sudamericana second round but have plenty still to do with only a one-goal advantage.
How it only ended 1-0 in Avellaneda is only down to some very poor finishing from both teams and Fortaleza will certainly regret not finding at least one away goal.
The Brazilians, managed by former goalscoring goalkeeper Rogério Ceni, were the far brighter in the opening exchanges and Osvaldo and David both had glorious chances to break the deadlock.
Just as they were against Racing’s nine men on Sunday, Independiente struggled to find any cohesion to their attacks and aside from Martín Benítez going close with a diving header when the forward should have at least tested the goalkeeper, El Rojo struggled to create much.
As the first half drew to a close both sides were reduced to ten men when Fortaleza defender Juan Quintero slapped Juan Sánchez Miño during a penalty box melee. The Colombian being shown a straight red and Sánchez Miño a second yellow for his part.
Shortly after the break Independiente finally clicked for a moment as Fabricio Bustos overlapped down the right, his cutback found Leandro Fernández and the forward fired a low shot inside Felipe Alves’ near post.
The chances didn’t stop there though and Romarinho was guilty of the worst miss. Fortaleza desperately wanted that away goal to take back to the Estádio Castelão in two weeks and from only three yards out Romarinho failed to find the target.
The visitors weren’t alone in their ineptitude to hit the net and substitute Braian Martínez looked set to score his first senior goal when left unmarked to nod in from close range but somehow the 20-year-old missed the target.
Lucas Pusineri will know that huge improvements are required but at least in victory the Independiente coach avoided throwing any further gasoline on the fire.
🎥🇦🇷⚽🇧🇷 ¡Para volver a ver! Lo mejor del triunfo de @Independiente ante @FortalezaEC en la ida de la Primera Fase de la #Sudamericana. pic.twitter.com/Uphu7wWHgL
— CONMEBOL Sudamericana (@Sudamericana) February 14, 2020