Two-time winners Enyimba made a strong statement of intent in
the third round of the CAF Champions League at the weekend,
defeating another former winner of Africa's biggest club prize,
Club Africain of Tunisia, 5-1 in their first leg in Aba.
Stephen Worgu brought his goals tally in this year's competition to nine with the second of the game as the Nigerian champions ran riot against their North African opponents.
The threat of an all-North African field in the group phase, which starts after this final knockout round, dissipated further with a handy 3-0 win for Coton Sport of Cameroon over Algeria's JS Kabylie.
But there is still likely to be a formidable line-up from the North as Zamalek won easily against Angola's InterClube while clubs like Olympique Khouribga of Morocco; Egyptian giants Al Ahly and holders Etoile Sahel of Tunisia look likely to progress despite not winning in their first legs.
Enyimba a hit in Aba
Enyimba got off to a rapid-fire start at their traditional fortress in Aba, with a goal in the first minute from Uche Kalu that set the tone for an unequivocally one-sided performance.
Worgu got the second from the spot on the half-hour mark but Club Africain must have still believed they were in the tie after Junior Osagie, a recent signing from Enyimba, netted against his former club.
A second penalty, this time taken by Stephen Chukwudi, restored the two-goal advantage after the interval and then substitute Emeka Akueme made sure of a comfortable second leg trip to Tunis with two more goals in the last six minutes.
Coton Sport went on the rampage in the first half of their game against the highly fancied JS Kabylie, scoring twice through Zoua Daogari and Niger international Daouda Kamilou, who then added a third 13 minutes into the second stanza at Garoua. Coton Sport are now set for a first-ever trip to the group phase after failing in several previous attempts.
The negative result led to extensive speculation Monday over the future of the former Valencia and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Moussa Saib as coach of the Algerian club, themselves former winners of the event.
Holders Etoile Sahel were beaten 1-0 by Dynamos in Harare for whom Desmond Maringwa marked his recent return from a long term injury with the only goal of the game after 50 minutes. But the defending champions will be confident of a strong display in the return in Sousse next month.
Stars shine bright
It is likely also the case for Al Ahly, winners of the two previous editions, who went down 2-1 to Platinum Stars in Pretoria on Saturday. The vital away goal from Emad Moteab did not stifle the disappointment of coach Manuel Jose, who side were given a run for their money by the rookie South Africans.
In doing so, Stars became the first club side from South Africa to win against Al Ahly.
Morocco's Olympique Khourigba, also new to the competition, got a credible 0-0 draw away at ASEC Abidjan in Côte d'Ivoire on Sunday, setting themselves up for potential success at home in the return leg.
But while ASEC chairman Roger Ouegnin said he expected a tough match in the second leg, he added" "I can assure our supporters that we have the character to win in Morocco and qualify for the group stage."
There were also wins for Al Ittihad of Libya and Sudan's Al Hilal, both semi-finalists last year.
CAF Champions League third round, first leg
Played on Saturday:
Zamalek (Egypt) 3-0 InterClube (Angola)
Coton Sport (Cameroon) 3-0 JS Kabylie (Algeria)
Al Hilal (Sudan) 4-2 Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)
Platinum Stars (South Africa) 2-1 Al Ahly (Egypt)
Played on Sunday:
Enyimba (Nigeria) 5-1 Club Africain (Tunisia)
ASEC Abidjan (Ivory Coast) 0-0 Olympique Khouribga (Morocco)
Dynamos (Zimbabwe) 1-0 Etoile Sahel (Tunisia)
Al Ittihad (Libya) 2-1 TP Mazembe Englebert (DR Congo)
The return legs will be played on the weekend of 9-11 May and the winners advance to the group phase in July.