Two-time African champions Enyimba held on for a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Raja Casablanca to go top of Group A in the CAF Champions League as three of the weekend's four matches ended up scoreless. The Nigerian champions will be happiest with their point because it puts them on eight from four matches, one ahead of Sudan's Al Hilal, who are still second on seven points despite losing 2-0 to Coton Sport of Cameroon.
In Group B, none of the teams could find a goal, which means Esperance and Wydad Casablanca stay joint-top on six points with two rounds of matches yet to play. A point further back, six-time winners Al Ahly will be the most frustrated with their draw at MC Alger, this in a match they dominated. The Cairo outfit, however, missed the chance to go top of the table after a slow start to the group in a tournament that they have dominated over the past decade.
The weekend's only winner, Coton Sport, put themselves back in the reckoning for a spot in the semi-finals after starting off their campaign with just one point from their first three contests. Not so fortunate were Raja Casablanca, who could not break down Enyimba. The Moroccans are on two points and facing elimination if they don't win in Garoua on the next matchday in two weeks' time.
Their Nigerian opponents, who won back-to-back African titles in 2003 and 2004, once again proved to be one of this year's favourites as they withstood a desperate Raja onslaught at Stade Mohammed V thanks to an organised defensive effort and the heroics of goalkeeper Paul Godwin. Both teams hit the woodwork but could not find the net as Otekpa Eneji slammed his free kick off the crossbar for the visitors in the opening moments of the game, and Bouchaib El Moubaraki's header did the same 20 minutes from time for the hosts.
Ahly miss their chances
Egypt's legendary Red Devils were hoping to win their second match over Group B's bottom-dwelling MC Alger in the space of two weeks, this after winning 2-0 in Cairo on 12 August thanks to a brace from Emad Moteab. However, they failed to take full advantage of Esperance and Wydad's earlier draw in Morocco's largest city.
In Algiers, Ahly captain Hossam Ghaly was suspended, and Moteab failed to replicate his heroics of a fortnight ago as he faltered when played clean through on the goalkeeper in the first half. Manuel Jose's team had two recent signings make their debut in the form of Mohamed Naguib and Walid Soliman, but no changes the Portuguese coach made could help his team find enough thrust as Alger secured their first shutout of the group stage.
Esperance, who lost in last year's Champions League final to TP Mazembe, had the upper hand for most of their contest, but could not find the net either. The Tunisians lost a two goal lead in the last matchday in Casablanca en route to a 2-2 draw, but in this instance they could not break down the defensive-minded visitors despite it being a one-sided contest. Wajid Bouazzi had the best chance to claim the decisive three points, but he failed to capitalise on a one-one-one with the goalkeeper in the opening period.
Esperance will be heavily favoured to take command of the group in the next round of play when they host MC Alger, while 1992 African Champions Wydad will try to keep pace with Al Ahly in Casablanca. However, the group seems like it could come down to a dramatic final round in mid-September when Esperance travel to Cairo and MC Alger host the Moroccans.
In Group A, the leaders meet next as Enyimba head to Sudan, but Coton Sport could make things very interesting if they take full points at home against Raja. The top two teams in each group qualify for the semi-finals, and the winner of the event earns a ticket to the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011 in December.