The new season’s start in South Africa was dominated by the return of iconic striker Benni McCarthy in the colours of champions Orlando Pirates, while in neighbouring Zimbabwe, FC Platinum and Motor Action continue to battle it out for the title. US Ouakam are inching closer to a famous victory in Senegal, meanwhile, and Kenya’s race remains wide open, although few of the top teams impressed over the weekend.
South Africa Premier League: Fairytale start to new campaign
South African football’s pin-up, Benni McCarthy, made a fairy tale return home after 14 years on the European club circuit, scoring just eight minutes after coming on for Pirates on the opening weekend of the new season. Pirates and perennial rivals Kaizer Chiefs both won against newly-promoted opposition, but it was Bloemfontein Celtic’s 3-0 away win at Lamontville Golden Arrows that sent out the strongest signal.
Big game: Kaizer Chiefs have now made Soccer City, venue for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Final, their permanent home, and should have had a hatful of goals against Jomo Cosmos, back up in the top flight yet again after winning last season’s National First Division. Chiefs led after just 90 seconds but then conceded an 81st-minute equaliser only for substitute Josta Dladla to tuck away a winner two minutes from the end. “Inexperience cost us,” lamented Cosmos owner and coach Jomo Sono afterwards.
Headline-grabbers: Benni McCarthy is still some way off being in peak condition but the national team’s record goal-scorer made a dream debut for Pirates. At 33-years, McCarthy is in the twilight of his career but showed his predatory instincts with the second goal as the champions began defence of their title with a 2-0 away win over Black Leopards in Polokwane.
Senegal Ligue 1: Edging closer as Old Lady heads down
A 1-0 win over multiple champions Jeanne d’Arc has edged US Ouakam closer to their first-ever Ligue 1 title. With four games to go, they hold a six-point gap over Casa Sport with Diaraf Dakar a further three behind. Ouakam need seven points from a possible 12 to make mathematically sure, but that is only necessary if Casa Sport win all their remaining fixtures.
Big game: The traditional pecking order has changed drastically in Senegalese football this season as Jeanne d’Arc battle to avoid relegation and Ouakam chase history as they celebrate 60 years of existence. The loss leaves the ‘Old Lady’ floundering second from bottom and in desperate straits with four matches to play.
Headline-grabbers: Casa Sports coach Demba Ramata Ndiaye has come out fighting with the season now in its dramatic closing stages. His side might trail the leaders by six points, but Ndiaye says there is no giving up. “I told the players the next games are all like cup finals. We must put points in our pockets,” he said after Casa ran riot against AS Douanes and recorded a 5-0 win at home in the rain in Ziguinchor.
Kenya Premier League: Chasing teams tumble
With leaders Tusker FC and Mathare United to meet on Monday, the scene was set at the weekend for several of the chasing contenders to edge closer to the top of the table. However, Posta Rangers were toppled from second place after losing to SoNy Sugar, while Gor Mahia and defending champions Ulinzi Stars both drew.
Big game: Posta Rangers were leaders just a fortnight ago but have now gone four matches without a win after losing in Awendo. Isaiah Omondi, with his seventh goal of the season, and Hugo Nzoka scored for SoNy Sugar, who were up against 10 men for the entire second half after Rangers defender Hashim Mukhwana was sent off on the stroke of half-time.
Headline-grabbers: Richard Chege kept alive Ulinzi Stars’ hopes of defending their title as he scored a late goal for a 1-1 draw at Thika United. Stars are three points off the leaders but have played one game more. For Gor Mahia, their hero was Collins Okoth as he netted with the last shot of the match to spare the home team’s blushes in a 1-1 draw with Karuturi Sports.
Zimbabwe Premier League: Three-way tie at the top
FC Platinum were kept in check at the weekend and are now ahead of defending champions Motor Action only on goals scored. Platinum, who have played one match less, drew 0-0 at struggling Zimbabwe Saints, while Motor Action beat Highlanders 1-0. Both sides are now up to 40 points as the league goes into its final ten rounds. It looks likely to be a two-team race as Dynamos lie third, seven points off the pace
Big game: FC Platinum could have gone two points clear but were unable to break down the opposing defence, and honours were shared. The match pitted against each other two coaches Rahman Gumbo (Platinum) and Ephraim Chawanda (Saints) who were long-standing team-mates in the Zimbabwe national side of the 1990s.
Headline-grabbers: Zimbabwe’s best-supported club Dynamos still maintain hopes of a title success and have a new coach at the helm. Calistus Pasuwa got his career of to a flying start as the Harare side won 4-1 against relegation-threatened Shooting Stars at the Rufaro Stadium in the capital.
Recreativo Libolo and Kabuscorp lead in Angola’s GiraBola after Petro Atletico were held at home by Benguela’s Primeiro Maio.
V Club have a three point lead in the Super League in DR Congo after a 1-1 draw with Elima.
Morocco will kick off its new league season on Friday and play one league match a day for the following eight days, all kicking off at 10.30pm local time because of Ramadan.