Home sides cruise in Champions League
© AFP

Halfway through the group stage, Esperance and Al Ahly continued to be the pacesetters, while a pair of other sides in each group are being left to fight it out over the second-place spot in the semi-finals. The teams that played on the continent this weekend will play the reverse fixtures a fortnight from now.

Game of the week
Al Ahly 4-1 Berekum Chelsea
The six-time champions kept their perfect record in Group B through three matches, scoring a pair of goals in each half. Forward Walid Soliman settled the match with a second-half brace that included a remarkable individual effort. Soliman was also involved in the opener in the 17th minute when he stopped the ball for Abdullah Al-Saied, whose long-range blast seemed to surprise the goalkeeper. Mohamed Naguib headed in a second before tournament top scorer Emmanuel Clottey pulled one back with his 12th goal of the event after he both won and converted a penalty before half-time. Chelsea's Richard Boateng and Ahly’s Wael Gomaa were sent off on either side of half-time for second bookings before Soliman blew the match wide open. In the 68th minute, the 27-year-old controlled a ball off his chest, flicked it over his head to find space in the box and then shot with his left foot into the top right corner of the net. He scored again less than five minutes later from a confident volley in the middle of the box with the goalkeeper pulled out of position by a quick combination down the right wing.

The surprise
TP Mazembe 2–0 Zamalek
Although not a shock result, Zamalek’s capitulation in Group B has been a surprise. The five-time African champions have no points from three contests, while the Congolese move up to second on goal difference – even on four points with Chelsea. The score at Stade TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi could have been worse if not for the heroics of veteran goalkeeper Abdul-Wahed Al-Sayed, who made a handful of tremendous saves for Zamalek. The Crows, winners in 2009 and 2010, had to wait until 20 minutes from time to get past the 35-year-old netminder, who made an acrobatic diving save to his right to deny Zambian Rainford Kalaba’s fifth minute header and then outdid even that with a stunning denial from Patrick Ochan’s blast in the second half. Isaac Kasongo coolly scored the opener from a mis-hit shot at the far post. Mazembe settled things seven minutes later when Tanzanian Mbwana Samata rose well over to head home a long looping cross from the left. The Whites and their new coach, Tarek Yehia, will try to comeback in their next three matches, which will all be in Cairo – the first two at home and a closer at cross-town rivals Al Ahly.

Other matches
Group A is also seemingly a three-club race with defending champions Esperance on nine points, five ahead of Tunisian compatriots Etoile du Sahel and Nigeria’s Sunshine Stars. If Al Ahly inspired in the other group, the Blood and Gold were workman-like in their 1-0 win in the national derby against Sahel. Khaled Mouelhi converted his third penalty in the last two group stage matches just before half-time. The defeat leaves the 2007 champions ruing their scoreless draw with Stars on the last matchday, and they are now behind the debutants on goals scored.

The Mimiko Boys were profligate in front of goal to the frustration of the supporters at the Dipo Dina Stadium in Ijebu-Ode, but they ran out to a heartening 2-0 victory. Dele Olorundare settled the side's nerves early in the second half with a headed goal from a corner by Godfrey Oboabona, who has been linked with a move to South Africa. Rising young striker Izu Azuka delivered a body blow to Chlef on the hour mark with a wicked left-footed blast. Goalkeeper Moses Ocheje was once again in fine form for the Nigerians to keep the shutout.

Player of the week
With Mohamed Aboutrika and Emad Meteab at the Olympics, Al Ahly were shorthanded in attack, but you would not have noticed with Walid Soliman in rampant form. He scored two goals from the top drawer and was a constant thorn in the Berekum Chelsea defence.

The stat
1 –
TP Mazembe have conquered Africa four times, but the weekend’s win over Zamalek was their first-ever victory over an Egyptian opponent.

What they said
"Zamalek are a big club, and we had a hard time in the first half. We changed tactics in the second half, and after that we dominated," Mazembe manager Lamine N'Daye.

Have your say
Can Chelsea hold off TP Mazembe in Group B?