Johannesburg - Mamelodi Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana was red-carded as the South African club lost 2-1 against AS Otoho of Congo Brazzaville in a CAF Champions League preliminary round first leg on Sunday.
Pretoria-based Sundowns are owned by wealthy businessman Patrice Motsepe and could afford to charter a jet for the match at Owando in the heart of central Africa.
But the comfortable passage did not help the 2016 African champions in the opening half as they fell two goals behind and were reduced to 10 men.
Sundowns stabilised after half-time and snatched a potentially precious away goal 15 minutes from time through Thapelo Morena.
Otoho are making a habit of troubling strong opponents as they eliminated 2018 semi-finalists Primeiro Agosto of Angola in a preliminary tie last season.
Sundowns were among five former winners of the premier Confederation of African Football club competition to lose away this weekend.
Asante Kotoko, whose last of two titles came 36 years ago, trailed and led Kano Pillars of Nigeria before suffering a 3-2 defeat in Kaduna.
A thriller was won 15 minutes from time when Gambo Mohammed netted the third goal for 2009 semi-finalists Pillars.
Etoile Sahel of Tunisia went down 2-1 away to fellow former champions Hafia of Guinea after taking a first-minute lead through Karim Aribi in Conakry.
Ibrahima Sylla levelled on 12 minutes and Mouhamed Sacca snatched a stoppage-time winner for Hafia, a powerful force in the 1970s when they reached five finals, winning three.
Etoile are guided by 69-year-old Faouzi Benzarti, the most successful African coach in CAF club competitions with five titles.
Twice champions Enyimba of Nigeria and 1995 trophy-holders Orlando Pirates of South Africa both lost 1-0 to Champions League debutants.
An Issouf Zonon goal 30 minutes into the first half earned Rahimo of Burkina Faso victory over 2003 and 2004 champions Enyimba in Ouagadougou.
Pirates could not find an antidote to the counterattacking of Green Eagles of Zambia in Lusaka and an early second half goal from Spencer Sautu following a swift break decided the outcome.
Other former champions fared better with Al Ahly of Egypt and JS Kabylie of Algeria winning and Raja Casablanca of Morocco and V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo drawing.
Record eight-time champions Ahly cruised to a 3-0 win against Atlabara of South Sudan, who were forced to move their home fixture to Egypt because the national stadium in Juba is being renovated.