Etoile edge 10-man Ahly in bad-tempered battle of African giants
The 33-year-old midfielder controlled a superb long pass with his chest before slamming the ball past goalkeeper Mohamed el Shenawy after 50 minutes in the Tunis suburb of Rades.
Ahly had to play all but 13 minutes of the Group B showdown a man short after defender Ayman Ashraf was red-carded for a dangerous challenge.
The visiting team won more possession than Etoile, despite being numerically disadvantaged, but rarely threatened goalkeeper Achraf Kerir at the 60,000-capacity Stade Olympique.
When the Cairo club were awarded a late free-kick within scoring distance, defender Ahmed Fathy blazed the ball high and wide.
The clash between two of the most successful clubs in CAF competitions became increasingly bad tempered as the second half progressed with the Botswana referee extremely lenient.
Ahly have won a record 19 CAF titles, including the premier Champions League competition an unparalleled eight times.
Etoile are the only club to have won all five past and present CAF competitions: the Champions League, Confederation Cup, Super Cup and the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup and CAF Cup.
Meanwhile, Al Hilal of Sudan survived a late rally by Platinum of Zimbabwe to win the other Group B matchday one fixture 2-1 in Omdurman.
- Tense finish -
Mohamed Eldai scored both goals for twice Champions League runners-up Hilal before Never Tigere reduced arrears nine minutes from time to create a tense finish.
Eldai had struck on 26 and 70 minutes for Hilal, who were shock winners over twice champions Enyimba of Nigeria in the final qualifying round.
Hilal and Platinum, who also reached the group phase last season in their best previous showing, are expected to be also-rans with Etoile and Ahly advancing to the quarter-finals.
A trend of tight tussles was also evident in the Group D opener with a superb Toufik Addadi goal giving JS Kabylie of Algeria a 1-0 win over V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Addadi dashed on to a pass and hammered the ball past V Club captain and goalkeeper Nelson Lukong from an acute angle on 66 minutes.
The goal ended a 426-minute run by 39-year-old Cameroon-born Lukong without conceding since the Champions League began this season.
It was no less than two-time African champions Kabylie deserved in their first appearance in the competition since reaching the 2010 semi-finals as they created more chances.
There are two standout fixtures among the five on Saturday with TP Mazembe of DR Congo hosting Zamalek of Egypt and Raja Casablanca of Morocco at home to Esperance of Tunisia.
Defending champions Esperance are seeking a record third consecutive title and fifth overall.