Estudiantes, Nacional edge towards Copa semis
© AFP

fThree-time Copa Libertadores champions Estudiantes bagged a crucial away goal in their 1-0 win over Uruguayan side Defensor Sporting in a feisty first-leg of their quarter-final tie.

Defender Leandro Desabato netted the decisive goal 12 minutes into the game when he headed home from a free-kick by Juan Sebastian Veron. Shortly after the game erupted as Estudiantes' Marcos Angeleri and Defensor's Jorge Curbelo were both sent off by kicking each other.

Uruguayan coach Jorge Da Silva threw on strike duo Mauro Vila and Alvaro Navarro but it was the visitors who came closest to scoring again when Mauro Boselli's shot came back off the crossbar. "I think we could have scored more goals from some of our counter-attacks, but we took an important step," Desabato said.

"However, we have not won anything yet. We will give our best at home. It will be the most important match of the year for the squad." The second leg will be played in La Plata on 18 June.

Also on Thursday night Uruguayan giants Nacional rescued a valuable 1-1 draw on their visit to Palmeiras in Sao Paulo. After a goalless first half, midfielder Diego Souza opened the scoring with a long range shot in the 55th minute.

But ten minutes from time substitute forward Santiago Garcia equalised after being set up well by Nicolas Lodeiro. Nacional were then reduced to ten men in injury time as defender Roberto Brum was sent off by protesting. He will now not be able to play the second leg on 17 June.