Big boys muscle into elite eight
© AFP

There were few surprises over the weekend in the CAF Champions League, but there were major wins for a pair of west African clubs as Sunshine Stars and Berekum Chelsea reached the group stage in their debut in the continent's most prestigious club competition.

Game of the week
Coton Sport 1-2 Berekum Chelsea

The rising Ghanaian club with the English name continued their improbable run by knocking out the 2008 finalists 2-1 in the match and on aggregate. After winning their first domestic championship last term, Chelsea have reached the group stage of the Champions League at first shot and keep alive the possibility of what would be a true Cinderella trip to the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan. The goal heroes were captain Mohammed Abdul Basit and 24-year-old striker Emmanuel Clottey, who now has six tallies to lead the competition.

The surprise
AFAD Djekanou 1-0 Etoile du Sahel
It would have been a far greater surprise had AFAD Djekanou completely reversed their 4-1 first leg loss to Etoile du Sahel, but a single-goal victory in Abidjan is encouraging enough for the Ivorians. Founded less than a decade ago, the club gave a good accounting in their second attempt against the three-time finalists from Tunisia. The hosts controlled most of the possession in the match, and they won the day, if not the tie, through promising defender Henri-Joel Konan. After the match, coach Cesar Lambert Amani Yao lamented AFAD's lack of cutting edge and big-match experience, but the Ivorians and the other seven losing teams in this round have a spot in the CAF Confederation Cup as consolation.

Other matches
TP Mazembe kept up their streak of fine continental performances with a 1-1 draw at Al Merreikh on a steamy Saturday night. After a 2-0 win in the first leg, the Congolese kept their cool despite intense pressure from Sudanese supporters and the opposition. Two Zambians combined for the goal as Rainford Kalaba set up Nathan Sinkala to fatally wound the hosts, who got a consolation with 20 minutes remaining from Kelechi Osunwa. Al Hilal, Sudan's other representatives, also went out after two 1-1 draws against ASO Chlef sent them into a penalty shoot-out. The Algerians were on top of the spot kicks from the off and won 4-2 to reach the group stage for the first time.

Holders Esperance danced with Dynamos in a second leg that was a foregone conclusion after a 6-0 throttling in the first leg. But with little to lose the teams played out an entertaining 1-1 draw in Harare. The hosts hit the woodwork in the first half before Khaled Ayari made the score 7-0 on aggregate although Denver Mukamba did save some face for the Zimbabweans. The other clubs will no doubt be anxious to avoid the Tunisians in Tuesday's draw, but one team that feels they have nothing to lose is Sunshine Stars, who overcame a 4-1 first leg loss to Recreativo do Libolo in the last round. The Nigerian debutants showed confidence in packing away Mali's Djoliba with a 1-0 home win after a 1-1 first leg, with both goals from attacking midfielder Izu Azuka.

Playing in an empty stadium, Zamalek booked their first group place since 2008 with a second 2-0 win over Maghreb de Fes. The Whites held their heads on the pitch against 10 men despite headlines made for the wrong reason after native talent Shikbala lashed out at veteran coach Hassan Shehata upon being substituted. Another Cairo team with internal strife, Al Ahly meet Stade Malien in Monday's delayed final match as the Egyptian giants must overcome a 1-0 loss they suffered in Bamako a fortnight ago.

Player of the week
In-form Karim Ali Hadji scored the equaliser in both of Chlef's rugged 1-1 draws with Hilal. His close-range header late on in the second leg was surely enough to gloss over missing the side's only penalty in the shoot-out.

The stat
10 –
The number of matchdays left in the CAF Champions League. The competition takes almost two months off before returning with six group matches and then a two-legged semi-final and final.

What they said
“It was a busy match that tested us in a variety of ways, particularly in defence as Dynamos attacked throughout the game. We are happy with the result, but we will need to get better if we are to be champions again,” Esperance coach Michel Decastel.

Have your say
What has been the biggest surprise of the CAF Champions League so far?