The history of Dynamos includes a prior appearance in the CAF Champions League final, but there are many who believe that the Zimbabwean club matched that achievement with their weekend's win over holders Etoile Sahel.
The Harare-based club certainly performed superbly in putting aside problems in raising cash and botched travel arrangements to win 1-0 away in Sousse against last year's champions and advance to the group phase of the competition for the first time in a decade. Dynamos won their tie 2-0 on aggregate on a weekend in which the stranglehold of clubs from the Arabic-speaking north was shattered.
Last year, seven of the eight clubs who reached the league phase were North Africans; this year, there will be only three. Al Ahly and Zamalek of Egypt went through as expected and Al Hilal of Sudan, who were semi-finalists last year, progressed to the group phase and are joined by Cameroon's Coton Sport, ASEC Abidjan of Côte d'Ivoire, Enyimba of Nigeria and TP Mazembe Englebert, who hail from Congo DR.
Dynamos only arrived in Tunisia at 2am on the morning of their match against Etoile Sahel and with a slender 1-0 lead from the first leg in Harare. The Zimbabwean club had earlier in the week considered withdrawing because changes in the foreign currency regulations in their country had vastly increased the cost of their trip to Tunisia.
Yet despite such adversity, Dynamos put up a sterling
performance, the highlight of which was a stunning long-range goal
for Benjamin Marere, who blasted home a volley from 20 metres to
silence the hope crowd. However, the star of the game was
goalkeeper Willard Manyatera, who kept Etoile Sahel's
much-vaunted strike force at bay with a string of key saves,
consigning the Sousse club to their first defeat in 72 continental
club competition matches played at the Olympic Stadium.
The elimination of the holders on Saturday night had been preceded 24 hours earlier by the departure from the Champions League field of Tunisia's other representatives, Club Africain. They won 2-1 at home to Enyimba but failed to sufficiently erode the 5-1 lead the Nigerians had built up in the first leg. It is the first time in 12 years since the league format was introduced to Africa's top club competition that no Tunisia side will participate in the last eight.
ASEC Abidjan, meanwhile, qualified for the league phase for a record ninth time after forcing a 1-1 draw away at Olympique Khouribga in Morocco. After a goalless first leg, the Ivorians progressed on the away goals rule. ASEC were the only club based south of the Sahara in last year's group phase but will have plenty of company this time round.
Coton Sport will make their debut in the last eight after several years of trying, and in doing so will become the first Cameroon side in the business end of the CAF Champions League since Sable de Batie in 2000. A 3-0 lead from the first leg gave the Garoua-based side a platform for progress and despite conceding an early goal to hosts JS Kabylie, the Cameroonians were assured of their place progress when Ousmaïla Baba scored on the stoke of half-time.
TP Mazembe Englebert knocked out last year's semi-finalists Al Ittihad of Libya, coming from 2-1 down after the first leg to win Sunday's return 2-0 in Lubumbashi. Bomboko Ngoy converted a 10th-minute penalty and the decisive second goal was teed up by captain Tresor Mputu, last year's top scorer in African club competition, for Luyeye Mvete to slot home.
Al Ahly battled back in similar circumstances to knock out Platinum Stars, with Emad Moteab and Flavio on target in Cairo on Sunday. Zamalek, who were 3-0 up over InterClube of Angola from the first leg, extended their aggregate lead in Luanda on Sunday with an own goal from Eduardo after just 15 minutes. However, the GiraBola champions did salvage some pride, going on to win 2-1 with goals from Minguito and Romi, who hit the winner from the penalty spot.
On Sunday, Al Hilal held out against a flat-looking Mamelodi Sundowns in Pretoria. The South African champions won 1-0 in the second leg but went out 4-3 on aggregate, the second successive year they have been dumped out at the final knockout round stage.
CAF Champions League third round, second leg results
Aggregate scores in parenthesis
JS Kabylie 2-1 (4-2) Coton Sport
Club Africain 2-1 (3-6) Enyimba
Etoile Sahel 0-1 (0-2) Dynamos
Al Ahly 2-0 (3-2) Platinum Stars
Olympique Khouribga 1-1 (1-1) ASEC Abidjan
ASEC advance on away goals
InterClube 2-1 (2-4) Zamalek
TP Mazembe Englebert 2-0 (3-2) Al Ittihad
Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 (3-4) Al Hilal