Substitute Anas Serrhat was the match-winner as Wydad Casablanca of Morocco edged Mamelodi Sundowns 2-1 on Sunday in a gripping African Football League final first leg.
Serrhat pounced on a weak headed clearance and unleashed a half-volley that goalkeeper Ronwen Williams got a hand to but could not stop in the Moroccan commercial capital.
A Rivaldo Coetzee own goal gave Wydad a half-time lead that was cancelled out when Sundowns’ Moroccan defender Abdelmounaim Boutouil converted a penalty.
Another substitute, Hamdou Elhouni, came close to scoring a third goal for the home team with a shot that rattled the crossbar in front of a capacity 60,000 crowd at the Stade Mohammed V.
Wydad had won four of the previous six matches between the clubs in Casablanca by one-goal margins, with the other two drawn.
The stage is now set for an intriguing return match in Pretoria on November 12 with a $4 million first prize up for grabs in the new competition.
This was the 13th meeting between the Moroccan and South African clubs since 2017, and undoubtedly the best as play swung from end to end after a slow start controlled by Wydad.
Wydad used the width of the pitch to good effect with full-backs Ayoub el Amloud and Yahia Attiyat Allah constantly pushing forward to join attacks.
The crowd, mostly clad in the red of Wydad and waving huge flags, erupted on 41 minutes when the Moroccans went ahead.
Montasser Lahtimi burst toward goal from the right flank, leaving several defenders in his wake, and his low cross was diverted into the net by Coetzee.
Sundowns pressed forward in the early stages of the second half only to have a let-off when a soaring El Amloud just failed to connect with an Allah free-kick.
Sundowns threatened to score for the first time midway through the second half when Wydad goalkeeper Youssef el Motie tipped over a long-range Teboho Mokoena free-kick.
When Wydad captain Yahya Jabrane blocked a close-range shot with an outstretched arm, a penalty was awarded after a VAR review, and Boutouil scored after 74 minutes.
It took the home side just four minutes to regain the lead through Serrhat, one of four substitutes introduced by coach Adil Ramzi.
The closing stages were frenetic as Wydad sought to increase their lead and Sundowns chased an equaliser.