Zakri gives Downs slender lead

The first half got off to a slow start, but in the eighth minute that nearly changed when Hlompho Kekana unleashed a trademark long-range belter of a shot. The ball fizzed just wide of Zouheir Laaroubi’s left post.

In the 21st minute, Ismail El Haddad picked up the first booking of the game for impeding Denis Onyango while the keeper was looking to release the ball.

This was just one of many occasions on which Wydad frustrated Sundowns, preventing them from executing quick attacking moves.

The hosts were forced to revert to long balls, trying in vain to catch Wydad’s defence unaware. They often gave the ball away cheaply in the first half and played into the Morroccan side’s hands.

Wydad looked dangerous on the counter, with Guillaume Nicaise Daho nearly breaking free in the 31st minute. However, Thapelo Morena caught him in time to snuff out the danger.

Pitso Mosimane played his hand at half-time, bringing Zakri on in place of Sibusiso Vilakazi.

Sundowns continued to play the ball long at the start of the second half — but all of a sudden, they seemed to have found purpose.

Percy Tau was often the man on the end of those long balls, but he was unfortunate to have two bad offside calls go against him early in the half.

In the 67th minute, Wydad head coach Hussein Amotta made his first substitution, bringing on Walid El Karti for Jamel Ait Ben Idir.

Straight afterwards, a threatening delivery from a free-kick out on the left fell into the path of Wayne Arendse. However, the ball went straight off him and Laaroubi was able to deal with it comfortably.

With 20 minutes left to play, Sundowns were rewarded for their persistence as Themba Zwane got on the end of a corner from the right and set Zakri up with a lovely touch. After a scramble in the box, the substitute delivered the killer finish.

Wydad responded by bringing Abeladim Khadrouf on for El Haddad in the 78th minute.

Four minutes later, Tau was incorrectly flagged offside yet again, with Mosimane’s frustration visible.

Meanwhile, Sundowns brought Bangaly Soumahoro on for Motjeka Madisha, who looked to have picked up an injury.

Sundowns made their final change in the 87th minute, with Thabo Nthethe coming on for Leonardo Castro.

Tensions spilled over at the end, with Mohamed Ounnajem at the centre of a clash between the two sides after a foul on Morena. Ounnajem was subsequently shown a yellow card.

The second leg is scheduled to kick off on 23 September at 22h00 (South African time). After a thrilling game at the Lucas Moripe Stadium, everything is still to play for.

Sundowns XI: Onyango, Morena, Arendse, Madisha, Langerman, Vilakazi,Manyisa, Kekana, Zwane, Tau, Castro.