An impressive list of at least 10 former champions are through to the last preliminary knockout round of this year’s CAF Champions League, led by the holders TP Mazembe Englebert. The field also includes record six-time winner Al Ahly of Egypt, three-time champions Raja Casablanca and the ever-dangerous Enyimba of Nigeria, who won the competition in 2003 and 2004.
However, a pitch invasion just minutes from the end of Saturday’s second round, second leg match-up between Zamalek of Egypt and Club Africain of Tunisia, both past winners of the continent’s top club competition, means the outcome of their tie will be settled by the Confederation of African Football’s disciplinary committee.
Zamalek’s Cairo neighbours, Al Ahly, endured a torrid time away at South African champion SuperSport United but held on for a 2-1 aggregate triumph. They had their two goal lead from the first leg in Egypt halved after just 28 minutes of the return match in Polokwane when Jabu Maluleke swerved in a spectacular free-kick, but despite hitting the woodwork, the home side could not level the scores and Ahly ultimately progressed. “It was one of the best teams we have played in a long time, so we have done well to get through,” was the reaction of legendary Ahly coach Manuel Jose.
Mazembe on the march
Two of last year’s winning heroes, Given Singuluma and Alain Kaluyituka, shared the goals as TP Mazembe won 3-2 at Dar-es-Salaam against Simba to complete a 6-3 aggregate triumph. A third round meeting with Wydad Casablanca, who were African champions 19 years ago, now awaits.
The Moroccans forced a 0-0 draw at Kano Pillars of Nigeria, holding on to their two goal lead from the first leg. “The conditions were very difficult,” said Morocco goalkeeper Nadir Lamyaghri. “We were also up against 20,000 fans willing their team on. We are really pleased to qualify for the next round.”
It leaves only Enyimba to represent Nigeria after they beat US Bitam of Gabon with a last-minute header from Josiah Maduabuchi. That goal secured a 2-1 triumph in Aba on Sunday and saved Enyimba from elimination on the away goals rule after the first leg had ended goalless.
The parade of past champions through to the third round later this month also includes Esperance of Tunisia, Entente Setif from Algeria and compatriots Mouloudia Alger, who fought back in fine style to eliminate Dynamos of Zimbabwe. Mouloudia Alger were hammered 4-1 away in the first leg in Harare in a horror debut for new coach Noureddine Zekri, but they launched a dramatic comeback in Sunday’s return game on the artificial turf at the Stade Omar Hamadi.
They had pulled only one goal back by half-time but a penalty in the 79th minute, converted by Malek Mokdad, offered hope. Then, two minutes into stoppage time, sloppy defending by Dynamos allowed Brahim Bedbouda to score his second of the night to ensure a 3-0 win and progress on the away goals rule.
The next round of CAF Champions League matches will be played on the weekend of 22-24 April, with the third round, second leg matches scheduled for the weekend of 6-8 May.
Djoliba (Mali) 1-1 Diaraf Dakar (Senegal)
Diaraf Dakar won 4-1 on aggregate
Zamalek (Egypt) 1-1 Club Africain (Tunisia)
Match abandoned after 87 minutes
Raja Casablanca (Morocco) 1-0 Stade Malien (Mali)
Raja Casablanca won on the away goals rule after a 2-2 aggregate draw
Simba SC (Tanzania) 2-3 TP Mazembe (Congo DR)
TP Mazembe won 6-3 on aggregate
Recreativo Caala (Angola) 1-1 Al Hilal (Sudan)
Al Hilal won 4-1 on aggregate
InterClube (Angola) 2-0 Al Merreikh (Sudan)
InterClube won 3-2 on penalties after a 2-2 aggregate draw
Young Buffaloes (Swaziland) 0-2 Zesco United (Zambia)
Zesco United won 7-0 on aggregate
SuperSport United (South Africa) 1-0 Al Ahly (Egypt)
Al Ahly won 2-1 on aggregate
Enyimba (Nigeria) 2-1 US Bitam (Gabon)
Enyimba won 2-1 on aggregate
Mouloudia Alger (Algeria) 3-0 Dynamos (Zimbabwe)
Mouloudia Alger won on the away goals rule after a 4-4 aggregate draw
ASPAC FC (Benin) 2-0 Esperance (Tunisia)
Esperance won 5-2 on aggregate
Coton Sport (Cameroon) 2-0 AS V Club (Congo DR)
Coton Sport won 3-0 on aggregate
Kano Pillars (Nigeria) 0-0 Wydad Casablanca (Morocco)
Wydad Casablanca won 2-0 on aggregate
ASFA Yennega (Burkina Faso) 3-4 Entente Setif (Algeria)
Entente Setif won 6-3 on aggregate
In Bamako: Jeunesse Club Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) v Al Ittihad (Libya), winner over one match only
Third round draw
Enyimba (Nigeria) v Al Ittihad (Libya) or Jeunesse Club Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire)
InterClube (Angola) v Mouloudia Alger (Algeria)
Esperance (Tunisia) v Diaraf Dakar (Senegal)
Raja Casablanca (Morocco) v ASEC Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire)
Al Hilal (Sudan) v Club Africain (Tunisia) or Zamalek (Egypt)
Wydad Casablanca (Morocco) v TP Mazembe (DR Congo, holders)
Coton Sport (Cameroon) v Entente Setif (Algeria)
Zesco United (Zambia) v Al Ahly (Egypt)