CAF Champions League review

The continent’s last two champions both made jittery starts to their respective CAF Champions League campaigns, but all is not lost for TP Mazembe or Al Ahly.

The pair were among six clubs who received byes into the second round of the competition, but both lost 1-0 on their travels. TP Mazembe, who ended a 40-year drought to become kings of Africa last year, fell to APR of Rwanda, while Al Ahly were beaten by Zimbabwean side Gunners.

The 16 second round, first legs at the weekend also saw three away wins and left several former champions in precarious positions after they failed to win at home.

It was substitute Albert Ngaboyisibo who came off the bench to hand APR over the holders, dribbling through several tackles and firing home for an 88th-minute winner. It made up for earlier wasted opportunities by the Kigali side’s two imported forwards, the Zambian Victor Nyirenda and Chikuepo Msowoya of Malawi, both of whom played at the recent CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.

“It was not an easy game but we managed to get the result we wanted,” said APR coach Erik ten Paske. “We played good football, we were aggressive and we contained their strikers, which helped us to win.”

Al Ahly, who have won three of the last five editions of the CAF Champions League, were undone by Norman Maroto’s solitary 22nd-minute strike. The Egyptian giants had never lost in eight previous meetings with Zimbabwean opposition.

It was fantastic, the boys showed that they have the character to match any team on the continent. I’m proud to be associated with Gunners.
Gunners coach Darlington Dodo after their upset of Al Ahly

“It was fantastic, the boys showed that they have the character to match any team on the continent,” said Gunners coach Darlington Dodo afterwards. “”I’m proud to be associated with Gunners.”

Gaborone United of Botswana continued their unexpected run in the Champions League with 3-0 away win over Curepipe Starlight in Mauritius, even though they had changed their coach just days before departing for the holiday island. David Bright led his new charges to a comfortable win in Flacq on Saturday, which will likely put the Botswana team in the third round within touching distance of an unprecedented place in the group phase, where no club from the arid southern African country has ever played before.

Dynamos of Zimbabwe, who were also exempt from first-round action, won at FC St Eloi Lupopo of Congo DR in Lubumbashi on Sunday with a 70th-minute goal from Cuthbert Malajila. Lupopo played with three former Dynamos players, who had helped the side to the Champions League semi-finals two years ago.

Algeria’s Entente Setif were 2-0 winners over Union Douala in Cameroon on Sunday, and there could have a weekend double for the north African country had JS Kabylie not conceded two minutes from time in Tunisia. But JSK will still be pleased with 1-1 draw against former champions Club Africain, who had two players sent off in the first 22 minutes and were behind at half-time but still forced a late equaliser through Mali import Mohamed Traore in Tunis on Friday night.

Club Africain’s coach Pierre Lechantre hailed it a heroic effort but there will be question marks over their discipline in losing players to over-zealous tackles so early in the game.

Morocco’s Raja Casablanca are in a pickle after a 1-1 home draw with Angola’s Petro Athletic on Sunday, while another former champion, ASEC Abidjan, lost away in Zambia some 24 hours earlier.

The return legs of all the ties will be played between 2 and 4 April.

CAF Champions League second round, first legs
Al Ittihad (Libya) 1-1 Difaa El Jadida (Morocco)
Club Africain (Tunisia) 1-1 JS Kabylie (Algeria)

Tiko United (Cameroon) 2-2 Heartland (Nigeria)
Curepipe Starlight (Mauritius) 0-3 Gaborone United (Botswana)
Gunners (Zimbabwe) 1-0 Al Ahly (Egypt)
Zanaco (Zambia) 1-0 ASEC Abidjan (Cote d'Ivoire)
Ismailia (Egypt) 3-1 Stade Tamponnaise (Reunion)
APR FC (Rwanda) 1-0 TP Mazembe (Congo DR)
SuperSport United (South Africa) 3-0 Ferroviario Maputo (Mozambique)
Esperance (Tunisia) 4-1 ASFA Yennenga (Burkina Faso)

Africa Sports (Cote d'Ivoire) 0-0 Al Hilal (Sudan)
Djoliba (Mali) 1-0 ASC Linguere (Senegal)
Raja Casablanca (Morocco) 1-1 Petro Atletico (Angola)
Union Douala (Cameroon) 0-2 Entente Setif (Algeria)
St Eloi Lupopo (Congo DR) 0-1 Dynamos (Zimbabwe)
Gazelle (Chad) 1-1 Al Merreikh (Sudan)