Penarol takes narrow lead

Another step closer ... Penarol players celebrate their first-leg success (AAP)

A goal by Dario Rodriguez just before the break gave Uruguayan giant Penarol a valuable 1-0 win over Argentina's Velez in the first leg of the Copa Libertadores semi-finals.

Velez controlled the first half and created the best chances.

Goalkeeper Sebastian Sosa saved one shot from Juan Manuel Martinez, who a few minutes later shot wide. Emiliano Papa also had a good chance to score, as did striker Santiago Silva.

Penarol also had a couple of chances with Matias Mier forcing a good save out of Marcelo Barovero.

A shot by Alejandro Martinuccio came back off the crossbar.

But in the last move of the first half, Rodriguez headed in from a corner to give Penarol a 1-0 lead.

After the break Penarol tightened up its defence and made it very difficult for Velez to create chances.

Martinez headed in a cross but the goal was not allowed as he had pushed the ball into the next with his hand.

Penarol can make its first finals appearance in 24 years - it won it in 1987 - if it gets a draw or better in the second leg next week in Argentina.