ASO Chlef have moved to within three wins of a first championship as they saw off their closest rivals in Algeria. After an abortive start, the league is finally underway in Côte d’Ivoire, while neighbouring Ghana is one weekend from finishing, with the relegation battle taking firm shape. In Zambia, the league is a third of the way through and sees a bundle of sides all with legitimate hopes of success.
Algeria Premier Division: Late drama
ASO Chlef held a large lead in the national league until a recent slump allowed CR Belouizdad to launch a challenge on their superiority. But Chlef rose to the challenge when the two met at the weekend, winning a dramatic 2-1 result to open up a nine-point gap with a game in hand. Three more wins and they will take a first-ever title.
Big game: Chlef dominated from the outset but it took 81 minutes before the deadlock was broken by Farid Mellouli’s goal. However, the visitors tied it at 1-1 with a long-range effort from Boubekeur Rebih that threatened to see them take home a vital point. But Mohamed Herida saw a second yellow for a foul inside the box five minutes into stoppage time, and Karim Ali Hadji converted the subsequent spot-kick.
Headline-grabbers: Salim Boumechra had a busy day as USM El Harrach beat MC Saida 2-1 at home and moved up to third, mathematically still in with a chance of taking the title. Boumechra had a hand in forcing an early own goal for his side and then scored himself just before the half-hour mark. Saida brought the game back to 2-1 at half-time, but Boumechra again had an impact, missing a penalty kick chance for an insurance goal.
Côte d’Ivoire Ligue 1: A start at last
After months of turmoil and a change of government, Côte d’Ivoire is slowly returning to a sense of normality, no better reflected than in the start of the new season at the weekend. It was somewhat low key and indeed belated after several postponements, but it is underway nevertheless.
Big game: With defending champions ASEC Abidjan routing Angolan opposition in the CAF Confederation Cup, the league’s major spotlight fell on arch-rivals Africa Sport. They were hoping for an impressive start but away at ASC Ouragahio found it hard to grab a goal. Their opponents had two players sent off in the second half and went down to nine men, but it was only two minutes into stoppage time at the end of the game that the winner came.
Headline-grabbers: Baba Ouattara grabbed the headlines with a cracking shot from some 20-metres out to win the match for Africa Sport after Mohamed Sanogo hit the woodwork and missed several gilt-edged chances in the match.
Ghana Premier League: Still to be settled
With Berekum Chelsea already anointed as champions, the battle for second (with a CAF Champions League place at stake) took an unexpected twist on the penultimate weekend of the season, while relegation was confirmed for Real Tamale United after a 33-year stay in the top flight
Big game: Just a single win in their last six games has seen Asante Kotoko tumble out of second place, overtaken by Medeama Sporting Club, who will host them on the final weekend of the season next weekend. Kotoko’s latest setback was a surprise 3-2 home defeat by Liberty Professionals, allowing Medeama to go two points ahead by beating former African champions Hearts of Oak 3-2 away in Accra.
Headline-grabbers: Real Tamale United, the club where three-time African Footballer of the Year Abedi Pele learnt his trade, lost away to Edubiase and with it confirmed their drop down to the second division. RTU join B.A. Stars on the way out of the Premier League with one more relegation place to be decided on the last day of the season. RTU’s loss to Stephen Manu’s penalty was their 15th defeat of the season.
Zambia Super Division: Top two slip
The top two sides in Zambia dropped points to allow a log jam of five teams within three points of the summit. Red Arrows went top on goal difference even though they were held at home by Nchanga Rangers. The air force club overtook newcomers Nakambala Leopards, who lost 3-0 at Power Dynamos but are also on 19 points.
Big game: Nchanga Rangers had to do without their coach for the their trip to the capital of Lusaka, but achieved their aim of spoiling Red Arrows’ high hopes. Bruce Mwape, who is helping prepare Zambia’s national side for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations clash with Mozambique next weekend, left his assistant Israel Mwanza in charge and saw him take a vital point.
Headline-grabbers: Nkana FC are finding life back in the top division tough, but the one-time glamour team of Zambian football, who have a record 11 titles in their past, finally got a first home win of the season and moved themselves clear of the relegation zone. Evans Kangwa and two from Victor Mwansa ensured a morale-boosting 3-0 win over Forest Rangers.
Newly crowned champions Raja Casablanca beat CR Al Hociema 2-1 away in the last game of the season to ensure a seven-point gap at the top of Morocco’s Botola from second placed MAS Fez. Second placed Casa Sports failed to take advantage of defeat for leaders US Ouakam and drew at the weekend to remain two points behind in Senegal’s Ligue 1. Coach Hossam Al Badri quit as coach of Sudan leaders Al Merriekh as they lost for the first time after winning their 12 previous matches.