Johannesburg – Renaissance Berkane of Morocco made a losing start to their CAF Confederation Cup title defence on Sunday by going down 3-1 to Kwara United of Nigeria in a last 32 first leg.
Seeking to win the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League a third time in four seasons, Berkane made a perfect start with Burkinabe Cheikh Ouattara giving them an early lead.
Known as the Orange Boys because the club is based in the citrus growing northeast region, Berkane held the advantage for 64 minutes before Taofeeq Ahmed levelled.
The goal inspired Kwara, who laid siege to the Berkane goalmouth during the closing stages in Lagos and Wadiu Jimoh and Barnabas Daniel netted to offer hope of a shock aggregate victory.
Renaissance host the return match on Saturday at the 10,000-seat Stade Municipal, where the Moroccans have overturned many first-leg deficits.
Berkane travelled to Nigeria in a confident mood having shocked fellow Moroccans Wydad Casablanca 2-0 last month to lift the CAF Super Cup for the first time.
As title-holders, Berkane were exempt from the Confederation Cup preliminary round while Kwara overcame modest AS Douanes of Niger 3-0 on aggregate.
The other Moroccan contenders, 2005 Confederation Cup winners FAR Rabat, were too strong for AngloGold Ashanti Golden Boys of Guinea and built a 4-0 first-leg lead.
A top-12 ranking based on past results also permitted Nigeria to enter two teams but African rookies Remo Stars lost at home to FAR in a preliminary tie after drawing away.
South African clubs had mixed fortunes with Marumo Gallants winning 3-1 away to Elgeco Plus of Madagascar while Royal AM were held 0-0 at home by Zesco United of Zambia.
Marumo have struggled in the national league this season, winning only one of nine matches, and French coach Romain Folz quit when club officials allegedly interfered in team selections.
The side from northern city Polokwane also sold star midfielder Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo to Orlando Pirates in a surprise move given their early season form.
But Gallants impressed in Antananarivo and took a two-goal lead within 21 minutes against Elgeco, who shocked PWD Bamenda of Cameroon last month.