The last time Tresor Mputu had the opportunity to make an international impression, he squandered by getting himself sent off just 19 minutes into his country's second game at last year's CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt.
The midfielder was among a group of exciting new talents nurtured by Congo DR's veteran coach Claude Le Roy, but while team-mates such as Zola Matumona, Blaise Lelo Mbele and Biscotte Mbala went on to secure moves to Europe, Mputu's time in the shop window was restricted by the suspension that followed his dismissal against Angola.
It has been a year since that personal calamity, but Mputu is now once again forcing his name in the world spotlight with a glut of goals in the CAF Champions League goals. On Sunday, the attacking midfielder scored his sixth in just three Champions League matches this season, breaking the deadlock as his club, TP Mazembe Englebert, drew 2-2 away at AS Adema of Madagascar.
Mputu had scored a hat trick in the first leg against Police XI of Botswana in the first round at the end of January and two more on the road in the return game in Gaborone. It helped Mazembe to a convincing aggregate win and the former African champions are now well set for a place in the third round in April.
Mputu will be keen to add more goals - and thereby gain further recognition - in the second round, second leg tie, which is to be played in Kinshasa later this month. TP Mazembe Englebert, who were African football's preeminent club team in the late 1960s, were one of four sides who scored valuable away draws in the weekend's second round, first leg ties.
Ahly enter the fray
Among those were defending champions Al Ahly, who played out a goalless draw against Highlanders of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. The Egyptian giants' Angolan FIFA World Cup™ striker Flavio thought he had claimed a dramatic win when he put the ball into the net in the last four minutes, but his effort was disallowed.
Highlanders themselves might well have had a late penalty when substitute Obadiah Tarumbwa went tumbling in the final minute, but referee Mandla Gama waved play on, leaving Al Ahly firm favourites to go through, with a home leg to come in a fortnight's time.
Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco were also able to force vital away draws. Côte d'Ivoire's ASEC Abidjan went one better with a 1-0 win over FC Kallon in Freetown, the goal coming from Lady Gildas, a recent signing from ASEC's great rivals, Africa Sports.
That home defeat would seem to portent the end of a fairy tale run for the club owned by Sierra Leone international Mohamed Kallon, who plays at French Ligue 1 club Monaco. FC Kallon had caused a sensation by beating Nigerian champions Ocean Boys in the first round.
Sudanese sink Zamalek
Elsewhere, MangaSport of Gabon managed to miss a second half penalty but still beat JS Kabylie of Algeria 3-1, while Nasarawa United of Nigeria brought another giant-killing side, Gambia Ports Authority, back down to earth with a 3-0 win in Ilorin. The Gambians had knocked out former African champions Asante Kotoko in the previous round.
However, it wasn't all good news for the big guns. Five-time champions Zamalek, for example, were left in the most precarious of positions after going down 2-0 on Sunday night away to Al Hilal of Sudan. Zamalek goalkeeper Abdelwahed El Sayed kept Al Hilal at bay in the first half, but a blunder by defender Tamer Abdelwaheb saw the goal finally breached as he miscued a clearance into his own net in the 59th minute.
Mohamed Al Taher doubled the lead six minutes from time with a powerful left-footed strike from the edge of the area. Then, to add to Zamalek's woes, Egyptian international wingback Tarek Al Said was sent off seconds before the final whistle for striking an opponent.