Last four set with a round to spare
© AFP

The teams to compete in the CAF Champions League semi-final stage are known after the penultimate matchday in the eight-team group stage. The big winners were TP Mazembe, who beat Al Ahly to join the event’s most successful club in advancing from Group B. The pair are still jockeying to finish top of the table in order to avoid defending champions Esperance, who secured Group A with a 1-0 victory over Sunshine Stars. The debutante Nigerians will be the outsiders in the last four, which is played home-and-away in October.

Game of the week
TP Mazembe 2–0 Al Ahly
Ahly knew they had qualified for the semi-finals going into Sunday’s match after Berekum Chelsea’s 1-1 draw at Zamalek on Saturday, and coach Hossam El Badry changed up his line-up to avoid possible suspensions. In the formidable Stade TP Mazembe, a shaky performance by the six-time champions was punished by the Congolese, who now top the table in the head-to-head tiebreaker with both teams on ten points. Rising forward Mbwana Samata continued to perform for the Crows, scoring his fourth goal in four matches against Egyptian opposition in the last two months. In truth, it was a loose opener, with the Tanzanian running through the ball as the goalkeeper bobbled his catch. There were no complaints from neutrals about the quality of the second goal, which came near the hour-mark after some fancy footwork and a clever pass by Tresor Mabi Mputu set up Deo Kanda. Mputu has been in rampant form, and Mazembe have won three matches on the trot. They seem to be hitting stride in their quest for a third title in four seasons, but they have a tough closing match at Chelsea. Ahly, who will be favoured against Cairo neighbours Zamalek in a fortnight, are desperate to avoid Esperance until the final as the Blood and Gold have had a hand in knocking the Red Devils out of the last two events.

The surprise
Zamalek 1–1 Berekum Chelsea
Playing with their home fans in attendance for the first time in over six months, the five-time champions were frustrated not to be able to break down the tournament debutantes. In front of a small but vocal Cairo crowd, the Whites did secure their first point of the round-robin stage, but they have no chance of moving off the bottom of Group B with one round to go. Emmanuel Clottey had an early opening for the Blues, but the Egyptians proved more decisive in the 12th minute through Mohamed Ibrahim. The 20-year-old playmaker finished confidently after Abdoulaye Cisse had carved out space for him in the box. However, the hosts were only celebrating for a few minutes before the Ghanaians were level. Their much-maligned defence failed to clear a free kick from the right, and after a determined scramble, Awudu Nafiu slammed the ball home from 10 yards. The hosts regrouped at half-time, but as they have all year, Chelsea proved themselves determined foes. With a quarter-hour to go Zamalek thought they had done enough for three points only to be denied as Ahmed Samir’s shot beat the goalkeeper but was cleared off the line.

Other matches
Esperance not only have an unassailable lead in Group A, but they have a match in hand over Sunshine Stars, who are their next closest rivals. The two-time African champions coasted into the semi-finals in a relatively uneventful affair in Rades. The winning goal came from Youseff Msakni's cross, which was turned into his own net by Jude Ebitogwa early in the second half. Esperance have nine points and a match at pointless ASO Chlef next, while Stars finish with six. Both sides knew they were qualified for the last four before the contest thanks to the disqualification of Etoile du Sahel.

Player of the week
Defender Ahmed Adams rushed back to join Berekum Chelsea for their match against Zamalek. The teenager had been mourning the death of his mother, but he was determined to play, and he ended up making good on his pre-match promise to do “something special” in Cairo. It was his hustling play, coming back to cover the post after chasing an attacker, that maintained the draw and gave his side at least a chance to stay in the race.

The stat
12 –
With six tallies each, Tresor Mabi Mputu and Mbwana Samata have combined for 12 goals, which is also the number scored by leading goal-getter Emmanuel Clottey.

What they said
“I'm not a magician. I can’t solve all the problems in a couple of weeks. The presence of our supporters motivated us, and I only wished I could have played myself to give them something to cheer for.” Zamalek’s newly appointed manager Jorvan Vieira.

Have your say
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