A pair of headers from Mohammed Nahiri earned Moroccan giants Wydad Athletic Club a 2-0 first leg advantage over Etoile du Sahel at the Complexe Mohamed V in Casablanca on Saturday.
The victory puts, Wydad, finalists of last season’s Total CAF Champions League at arm’s length distance against the Tunisians ahead of the return tie to be played in Tunisia next week.
The victory was particularly sweet for Spanish coach Juan Carlos Garrido who was taking charge of his first match since being appointed and more interestingly against his immediate former employers.
Garrido proved to have done his tactical homework well as he started his second stint in Casablanca, having previously coached cross-town rivals Raja, on a victorious note.
The hosts got into the lead in the 11th minute when Nahiri headed home from close range. Ismail El Haddad recycled the ball into the box with a well taken volley after the Etoile backline failed to clear away a freekick from Badi Aouk.
It was a relieving start for coach Garrido who had just taken over the job less than a week ago and he looked to ensure they got into a more comfortable gap. They came close in the 17th minute but Yahya Attiat’s shot from the edge of the area rolled easily into the keeper’s arms.
They kept the pressure with Aouk exciting on the wings and the pint-sized winger almost created a second on the half hour mark when he bombed forward on the right to cut back a cross into the box but Aymane El Hassouni’s connection at the near post went wide.
Etoile who have beaten Wydad in three of their four continental meetings were yet to cause any danger in the opening half, but six minutes to time, they had their first effort on target.
Souleymane Coulibaly put up a good run on the left and from a tight angle forced the keeper to a good save, the defence left dazed with the electric pace.
Just as they did in the first, Wydad did the business early in the second half. Just eight minutes from the restart, they were cruising 2-0 up when Nahiri nodded his second goal of the night, towering above the defence to head home from an Attiat freekick.
Wydad continued to raid and the visitors were saved by a Saddem Ben-Aziza goal-line clearance, the defender stretching his leg to clear away a shot from El Haddad off an Aouk cross.
Etoile were restricted in terms of attack, but had a rare chance in the 73rd minute but Wajdi Kechrida’s shot from distance was fisted away by the keeper.
Substitute Kasengu Kazadi thought he had sealed the victory for his side with quarter of an hour left, but his goal was ruled out after handling the ball in the build-up. Nonetheless, the Moroccans held on for the 2-0 win to go into the second leg with an advantage.