Egypt resumed their league season at the weekend but the top clubs looked to still be on holiday, while the order at the head of the standings in South Africa was changed after a dramatic series of results. In Nigeria, Dolphin FC are swimming away from their title rivals, while Al Ittihad have finally taken over at the top in Libya.
Egypt: The return of a legend
The return of Manuel Jose to Al Ahly did see the club move up a single place in the standings but a draw with Misr Elmaqasah was not the start the new coach was hoping for. There has been much anticipation ahead of the third stint at the Cairo giants for the Portuguese tactician, called back to try and get Ahly back into the title race. However, even after leaders Zamalek faltered in a goalless draw at home to mid-table club Military Production, Al Ahly failed to take advantage.
Big game: The absence of star player Mahmoud Shikabala through suspension was a key loss for leaders Zamalek, who looked a lethargic bunch without him in dropping two potentially vital points at home. Striker Amr Zaki’s knee injury is a further long-term problem and the draw means they are three points ahead of Ismaily, who won 3-2 at home to Haras El Hedood.
Headline-grabbers: Manuel Jose had a record-breaking stint at Al Ahly before leaving some 18 months ago, but signs are that this time around might be tougher. After a fortnight of preparation with his side during the mid-season break, the coach was forced to proclaim after the draw at Misr Elmaqasah that it would take time to get the club back up among the frontrunners. “I’m a coach, not a magician,” he said after the 1-1 draw.
South Africa: New leaders at the top
Defeat for Mamelodi Sundowns in the derby against champions SuperSport United leaves them with just a single win in their last five matches and sees them toppled from the top of the Premier League. A dramatic come-from-behind win put Orlando Pirates into top place instead, but Kaizer Chiefs can go top if they win in midweek after their match was rescheduled due to a waterlogged pitch on Sunday.
Big game: Zambian international midfielder Isaac Chansa has been pushed forward into a supplementary striker role in recent games and the switch by coach Ruud Krol paid massive dividends as Pirates engineered a potentially huge comeback win against BidVest Wits. The Students had taken a surprise two-goal lead away until Chansa scored twice inside four minutes in the second half and then substitute Katlego Mashego seized on a defensive error to steal a 3-2 triumph.
Headline-grabbers: Defending champion SuperSport United started the season seeking an unprecedented fourth successive title, but they have been inconsistent and have found themselves in the bottom half of the standings for much of the campaign. However, after just one victory in their last seven games, the club suddenly displayed glimpses of their past form in beating Sundowns 1-0 in Polokwane with a late goal from Kermit Erasmus.
Libya: Champions finally on top
Defending champions Al Ittihad have finally opened up a gap between themselves and their closest rivals in the national league after playing catch-up in recent months. A 2-1 win over Al Nasr means that Ittihad, who are chasing a seventh successive title, have now moved three points clear of second Al Ahli Tripoli. Ittihad had several fixtures to catch up after reaching the last 16 of last year’s CAF Champions League.
Big game: A penalty converted by captain Younes Shibani put Ittihad ahead just after the quarter-hour of the match after shirt pulling on Ahmed Zuway. But Ittihad were then forced on the back foot and were fortunate to see Ahmed Abdelkader miss frequent chances for Al Nasr. Ihaab Bousseffi then scored against his former club to make it 2-0 but there remained anxious moments when Blaise Mbele pulled a goal back from a late penalty.
Headline-grabbers: Al Ahli Tripoli’s hopes of stopping Ittihad from running away with yet another title are very much alive, but they will need to be more consistent than in their last game at bottom-placed Swihli, failing to take advantage of their hosts' captain Paul Koulibaly picking up an unnecessary red card early on in the game. It was only seven minutes into stoppage time at the end of the game that Moner Almabrouk was able to grab a winner.
Nigeria: Gap grows to four points
Dolphin FC extended their winning run to five matches at the weekend but the 1-0 win over Kano Pillars was given more resonance by the fact second-placed Sunshine Stars were held to a goalless draw at JUTH, who duly moved off bottom place. Dolphin, champions previously only once before in 2004, are now four points clear at the top.
Big game: Junior international Abduljeleel Ajagun scored in the final 10 minutes of the game to give Dolphin their win at home in Port Harcourt. Opponents Pillars held out in search of an away draw until conceding their late goal.
Headline grabbers: Belgian coach Maurice Cooreman had the satisfaction of engineering a win for current employer Kaduna United against champions Enyimba, one of his former employers. Fidelis Saviour lived up to his name with a 77th-minute winner in the 1-0 victory.
Champions Cotonsport Garoua won their derby against struggling Scorpion de Bey 3-1 and have now opened a healthy lead at the head of Cameroon’s Elite One.
Dakar giants Jeanne d’Arc have fired coach Cheikh Tidiane Biteye after failing to win any of the first five matches of the new Senegalese season.
Tonnerre won 2-1 away at Soleil to overtake their opponents at the top of Benin’s Moovligue 1 after 16 rounds played.