North African clubs have long dominated the CAF Champions League, but this time around they are finding the going rather tough. After 2011 champions Esperance lost on the first match-day of the group stage, Egyptian giants Zamalek and Al Ahly were defeated in their second matches over the weekend, with the defending champions Al Ahly tasting an historic defeat at home.
The top two clubs in each group qualify for the semi-finals, and the winner of the event will represent the continent at the FIFA Club World Cup at the end of the year in Morocco.
Game of the week
Esperance de Tunis 2-0 Coton Sport
Having surprisingly lost their opening group game in Angola against Recreativo Libolo, the pressure was on the Tunisian juggernauts to get full points at home. The Blood and Gold, who have played in the last three finals and won Africa's biggest club prize twice, opted to play the game at 10pm local time to allow their players to break their Ramadan fast at sundown. Tunisian officials ordered the game to be played behind closed doors and the hosts did not settle well in the first half as they failed to find a way through the compact Coton Sport defence. It took a fine solo effort on the hour from Youcef Belaili to open the scoring and the Algerian youth international also had a hand in the second as he set up substitute Iheb Msakni deep in injury time. The visitors, who were playing their first group match after their opener was postponed, ended the game with 10 men as captain Jean Bapidi Fils was sent off in the final minute.
Al Ahly 0-3 Orlando Pirates
Having last lost at home in the group phase of the Champions League in 2002 – a run of 23 matches unbeaten – the title holders were overwhelming favourites against the 1995 champions. However, forced to play in the Red Sea resort of El-Gouna behind closed doors during a time when their players were involved in Ramadan fasting, the Red Devils never found their rhythm and slumped to a worst-ever home loss in the Champions League. Thandani Ntshumayelo opened the scoring after just 11 minutes following some fine inter-play. The home side had an opportunity to equalise from the spot, but Walid Soliman's shot was saved by Senzo Meyiwa, and then to make matters worse, Ahmed Abdel-Zaher was sent off shortly before the break. The Buccaneers made their numerical advantage count in the second half as Andile Jali scored with a penalty in the 73rd minute and then set up Sifiso Myeni just three minutes later.
After Recreativo do Libolo stunned Esperance in their first game in Group B, the Angolan champions were confident of doing well in Côte d'Ivoire against Sewe Sports. But the team from southern Africa were brought crashing back to earth as Kevin Zougoula scored three times in the first half to give the home side a comfortable 3-1 lead at the break, with Cape Verdean Sidnei having scored the lone goal for the visitors. Sewe were down to 10 men in the second half when Pacome Agboke was sent off, but Libolo could not find a way back into the game.
Zamalek, who drew with rivals Ahly in their opener, travelled to Congo for their second contest against CAF Confederations Cup holders AC Leopards, who drew their group opener at Orlando Pirates. Zamalek were missing several regulars and found themselves down at the break after Ntela Kalema scored from the spot to put the home side ahead. To make matters worse the incident that led to the penalty also saw defender Mahmoud Fathallah pick up a second yellow card and the visitors thus had to play the entire second half a man down. The five-time winners tried to come back in the second half, but Leopards proved too strong and could have gone further ahead in the second half.
Player of the week
That Kevin Zougoula is on a fine run of form is nothing new to Ivorian football fans. The striker scored twice for his side's national team as they recently beat Nigeria 2-0 in the African Nations Championship qualifiers, which is open only for players under contract with African teams, and he went one better over the weekend for Sewe Sports. The 25-year-old, who has said he dreams of one day playing for Olympique Marseille, opened the scoring for the home side midway through the first half and then added another two before the break after Recreativo had temporarily equalised.
3 – The number of teams on three points in Group B – with Sewe Sports claiming the advantage over Libolo and Esperance having played one fewer match. In Group A, Pirates and Leopards surprisingly top the table on four each, while Ahly and Zamalek are both on three.
What they said
"It was a bad defeat, but there were very difficult circumstances as our players were fasting and it was very hot, so that's why we appeared out of form," Ahly coach Mohamed Youssef.
Have your say
Can Pirates and Leopards hold on in Group A and keep the Egyptian giants Ahly and Zamalek out of the semi-finals?