With just two games remaining in the CAF Champions League group stage, Egyptian club Zamalek and Tunisian giants Esperance surprisingly find themselves having to play catch-up if they want to extend their participation in the showpiece of African club football. Although Zamalek at least secured a point from their draw against TP Mazembe, they have just four points and are three behind the leading Congo DR clubs Mazembe and Vita Club. Esperance have even more work ahead of them after losing to local rivals CS Sfaxien. The winner of the competition will represent the continent at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco at the end of the year.
Game of the week
Al Ahly Benghazi 0-2 ES Setif
ES Setif are well on their way to becoming the first Algerian club since 2010 to make it to the round of the last four. The 1988 champions scored both sides of the break to take a giant step towards the semi-finals by beating Libyan club Al Ahly in Tunisia. El-Hedi Belameiri opened for the Algerians early on to take his total to the competition to six. The goal spurred Al Ahly, who stunned the title holders Al Ahly Cairo in the last round, into action, but they simply failed to find the back of the net. Instead it was Sofiane Younis who put the game beyond doubt with a header late in injury time. Setif lead Group B on eight points, while Al Ahly have four.
Zamalek 0-0 TP Mazembe
Having lost twice in their opening three games, Zamalek went into their game at home against TP Mazembe knowing that anything but a victory would increase pressure on them in their quest to win a sixth African title. Zamalek coach Mido had to field a depleted side after several of his players were suspended and six had left the club during the short Champions League break. Both sides had a number of chances, but in the end it was the Congolese visitors who will regard the draw as a point won. They now top Group A with seven points, while Zamalek have four.
In Kinshasa, Sudanese visitors Al Hilal must have thought they had done enough to secure at least a point against Vita Club in Group A after Mohamed Bashir gave them an early lead. They managed to hold the advantage until nine minutes from the end, when Lomalisa Mutambala found the equaliser. The club from Sudan was denied their share of the spoils deep into injury time when the referee waved away protests and pointed to the spot. Daddy Birori made no mistake to take the home side to seven points, while Al Hilal remain on four. The second match in Group B saw CS Sfaxien take on Esperance in a Tunisian derby. But unlike their three previous encounters this year, in which Esperance emerged victorious, it was midfielder Mohamed Ali Moncer who scored the only goal of the game midway through the second half to give the home side the win in Sfax. The three points takes Sfaxien to seven points – one behind table-topping Setif, while Esperance are bottom with just three. Their coach Sebastien Desabre was philosophical in defeat: "I draw three lessons from this encounter. Firstly, we received no points. Secondly, our path becomes more difficult and we no longer have our own fate in the hands. Yet we are not eliminated. Finally, we must use it to improve our team."
Player of the week
That Daddy Birori can score goals is a well-known fact amongst football fans in Africa. The 27-year-old striker, who played in the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign for Rwanda, managed an impressive hat-trick for the Wasps in a qualifier for the 2015 CAF Africa Cup of Nations as Rwanda advanced to the second round of qualifying with a 3-0 victory against Libya at the end of May. Birori’s decisive penalty for Vita secured a 2-1 victory as the Congolese club chases their second continental trophy, after winning the African Cup of Champions Clubs in 1973.
8 – The number of unbeaten home matches for AS Vita in the Champions League. The last time the Congolese club were beaten in Kinshasa was in 2012, when Algerian team ASO Chlef won 3-2. Since then, Vita have won seven and drawn just one. Their overall home record in the competition is equally impressive: played 31, won 24, drawn four and lost just three.
What they said
“These three points are really important and we played a great match. Our hard work paid off, but we must certainly not believe that we have already qualified. We still have work to do, especially to improve our offensive performance,” said Philippe Troussier, who was in charge of CS Sfaxien for the first time in a Champions League match.
Have your say
Can former winners Esperance and Zamalek bounce back from yet another disappointment in the CAF Champions League to secure a place in the semi-finals? The two North African giants failed to win again and are four and three points respectively behind the second-placed team in their groups.