NAIROBI: Egyptian giants Zamalek FC took a huge step towards qualifying for the group stages of the 2021/22 CAF Champions League after beating Kenyan titleholders Tusker FC 1-0 in Nairobi on Saturday.
Moroccan Achraf Bencharki scored the winner in the 47th minute of the first leg of the round of 32 contest played in Nairobi.
The return leg is set for Friday in Alexandria, Egypt where the Cairo giants only need a draw to advance.
Tusker had goalkeeper Brian Bwire, who returned to the team from international duty, to thank for keeping the score line respectable for the hosts.
The five-time African club champions are fondly known as the White Knights by their fans and they delivered a controlling performance to dominate the contest.
Bwire thwarted Ahmed Mostafa when he was clean on goal after being put through by his captain Youssef Mohamed who lofted a great ball into space to create the chance midway through the first half.
After a barren first half, Bwire and his teammates were caught cold moments after the break when Bencharki twisted his way past the Tusker defense to score the opener.
The goal spurred the Kenyan champions into action and in the 57th minute, Ibrahim Joshua laid the ball to his strike partner, Boniface Muchiri but his effort was easily gathered by the Zamalek goalkeeper.
Tusker coach, Robert Matano made a quadruple substitution just past the hour mark as he tried to wrest the initiative from the Egyptians.
And the changes almost had an immediate desired impact when fashioned another chance to level the contest in the 61st minute when Joshua forced the Zamalek keeper to a smart save.
With nine minutes left, Bwire ensured his side had something to play for in Alexandria when he made a brilliant one-handed save to deny Moray Fayed a second for Zamalek.
The Whites Knights then opted to run down the clock, with their goalkeeper booked for time-wasting in the final minutes that saw them also make three substitutes.
The final whistle brought them a first victory on Kenyan soil for the Egyptian champions who were shocked 4-2 the last time they played in Nairobi in March 2019 by Gor Mahia in the CAF Confederations Cup.