African giants survive close shaves

Pride was restored at the weekend for some of the perennial challengers for African club competition glory but previously formidable reputations have been replaced by the exposure of a vulnerable veneer.

ASEC Abidjan, for example, semi-finalists two years ago and a team that has reached the last eight a record eight times in the last 11 years of the current CAF Champions League format, came within five minutes of an embarrassingly early elimination on Sunday. However, they, together with the likes of another former winner, TP Mazembe Englebert of Congo DR and Egyptian giants Zamalek, managed to scrape through to the second round despite some decidedly unconvincing performances.

ASEC, who won their only CAF Champions League title 10 years ago, had floundered at home a fortnight ago when the unheralded AS Kaloum of Guinea held them to a 1-1 draw. In Sunday's second round, second leg encounter in Conakry, the two sides were goalless for almost the entire match, setting up AS Kaloum for a win on the away goals rule. That, however, was until Serge Deble popped up with five minutes remaining to score the goal that handed the Ivorians a narrow escape.

TP Mazembe were in similar jeopardy after a 1-1 draw at home in the first leg of their tie against FC105 Libreville, the Gabon champions who had already caused a first round upset by eliminating the 2000 CAF Champions League winners, Hearts of Oak.

However, the army club were unable to pull off a second successive giant-killing and lost 1-0 at home as their visitors crept through 2-1 on aggregate. A goal in the 32nd minute from Luyeye Mvete ensured Mazembe moved forward to the last of the knockout rounds.

It was even closer for Zamalek, who have won African football's top club title a record five times. The Cairo giants were 2-0 up from the first leg of their tie against Côte d'Ivoire's Africa Sports but lost Sunday's second leg at the Felix Houphouët-Boigny stadium by the same scoreline.

It was a game in which penalties provided all the drama, two during the 90 minutes and then a drama-fuelled shoot out to decide the winner. Jean Michel Sery scored both goals from the spot in the 44th and 68th minutes, much to the chagrin of Zamalek and their Dutch coach Ruud Krol. However, Zamalek's keeper Mohamed Abdelmoncef emerged as the hero, making some key saves during the shootout to keep Zamalek in the race.

So close for Sporting
Holders Etoile Sahel were also given a scare on Saturday when they lost 3-0 in Senegal to AS Douanes, although all the goals came in the last seven minutes of the match and the Tunisian club had already established a five-goal advantage from the first leg. Elsewhere, Sporting Praia came desperately close to creating another upset, with the team from the Cape Verde Islands literally minutes away from reaching the third round for the very first time.

However, they conceded a late goal to InterClube of Angola to lose 1-0 in Luanda and go out on the away goals rule. The islanders, who won the first leg 2-1 in Praia, shook up the competition in the first round with their elimination of the highly fancied Moroccan side, Royal Armed Forces.

Had they not conceded that last-minute goal to Minguito, the occasional Angolan international, they would have had a second major scalp to their belt. Their achievement in pushing InterClube to the limit did not go unnoticed. "Congratulations to Sporting," said InterClube's Brazilian coach Carlos Mozer after the game "We are grateful to have qualified for the next round but we missed many chances to make it a lot easier for ourselves."

At the other end of the spectrum, Nigeria's Enyimba, Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa and JS Kabylie all progressed on the back of solid results, adding to their credentials ahead this month's third round, first leg ties

CAF Champions League second round, second leg results

Aggregate scores in brackets

Africa Sports (Côte d'Ivoire) 2-0 (2-2, 4-5 on pens) Zamalek (Egypt)
AS Kaloum (Guinea) 0-1 (1-2) ASEC Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire)
Curepipe Starlight (Mauritius) 0-1 (0-4) Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)
Simba SC (Tanzania) 1-3 (1-7) Enyimba (Nigeria)
Gombe United (Nigeria) 2-1 (2-6) Coton Sport (Cameroon)
FC105 Libreville (Gabon) 0-1 (1-2) TP Mazembe Englebert (DR Congo)
InterClube (Angola) 1-0 (2-2) Sporting Praia (Cape Verde Islands) 0
InterClube win on away goals
Costa do Sol (Mozambique) 2-0 (3-2) Dynamos (Zimbabwe)
AshantiGold (Ghana) 0-0 (0-3) JS Kabylie (Algeria)
Entente Setif (Algeria) 2-0 (2-2, 4-5 on pens) Olympique Khouribga (Morocco)
AS Douanes (Senegal) 3-0 (3-5) Etoile Sahel (Tunisia)
ZESCO United (Zambia) 1-1 (1-3) Al Hilal (Sudan)
Stade Tamponnaise (Reunion) 1-1 (1-3) Platinum Stars (South Africa) Primeiro Agosto (Angola) 2-1 (2-2) Al Ittihad (Libya)
Al Ittihad win on away goals
Club Africain (Tunisia) 4-0 (4-2) ASKO Kara (Togo)

CAF Champions League third round draw

ASEC Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire)-Olympique Khouribga (Morocco)
Zamalek (Egypt)-InterClube (Angola)
Dynamos (Zimbabwe)-Etoile Sahel (Tunisia)
Coton Sport (Cameroon)-JS Kabylie (Algeria)
Al Ittihad (Libya)-TP Mazembe Englebert (DR Congo)
Enyimba (Nigeria)-Club Africain (Tunisia)
Platinum Stars (South Africa)-Al Ahly (Egypt)
Al Hilal (Sudan)-Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)