Democratic Republic of Congo club TP Mazembe became favourites to claim a fifth African Champions League title after winning 2-1 at USM Alger of Algeria on Saturday in the first leg of the final.
Zambian Rainford Kalaba and Tanzanian Mbwana Samatta scored for the visitors, whose starting line-up also included footballers from DR Congo, Ghana and Mali.
Substitute Mohamed Seguer pulled one goal back for the all-Algerian USM side at Stade Omar Hamadi in Algiers.
Mazembe, who host the second leg in Lubumbashi next Sunday, were awarded two second-half penalties. Zambian Nathan Sinkala had his penalty saved before Samatta scored from the other spot-kick.
Each team had a player sent off by the Egyptian referee with Kalaba getting a straight red card for pushing an opponent in the face at the end of the first half.
Algerian Hocine El Orfi was sent off midway through the second half after deliberately handling inside the box, with the foul resulting in the first penalty.
Kalaba had put Mazembe ahead on 27 minutes with a looping shot over Mohamed Zemmamouche after he reacted quickest to a throw-in.
The Congolese club doubled their lead after 79 minutes when Samatta was fouled in the box by USM captain Nacereddine Khoualed.
Samatta got up to calmly send the goalkeeper the wrong way.
Seguer turned a Mazembe defender just outside the penalty area on 88 minutes before hooking the ball over veteran Mazembe goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba to give the Algerians some hope as they bid for a first Champions League crown.
The African champions collect a $1.5 million prize and a place at the 2015 Fifa Club World Cup in Japan.