JSK reach semis, Esperance on cusp

JS Kabylie reached the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League at the weekend, while Esperance made all but sure of joining them. Group B leaders JSK drew 1-1 away to Al Ahly to go five points clear of their opponents - and six above third-placed Heartland - with two rounds remaining. The Tunisian giants, meantime, beat TP Mazembe 3-0 to replace their visitors atop of Group A and establish a five-point cushion over ES Setif, who moved into third thanks to a reverse of Dynamos.

Mazembe’s defeat in Rades was the worst they have suffered in the competition since 1977, when they lost by the same score in Togo. The reigning champions’ nemesis was Michael Eneramo, who celebrated a recall to the Nigeria squad for their upcoming CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers with a first-half brace. That ensured a tumultuous week for the Esperance striker, in which he was involved in a training ground bust-up, ended on a high note.

ES Setif closed to within three points of Mazembe by notching their first win in the group stage against Dynamos on Friday evening. Bouazza Feham scored twice for the Algerians, before Youssef Ghazali sealed a 3-0 win.

Esperance and Mazembe will entertain Setif and Dynamos respectively in the penultimate round knowing that home victories would take them through to the last four.

Ahly frustration, Heartland relief
Al Ahly were expected to exact revenge for a 1-0 defeat at JS Kabylie a fortnight ago, and that appeared on the cards when their recent recruit Mohamed ‘Gedo’ Nagui opened the scoring in the 22nd minute with a header from Ahmed Fathi’s cross. The visitors refused to crumble, however, and restored parity five minutes later when, after a free-kick was blocked, Saad Tedjar thumped home the rebound.

JSK were forced to play the entire second half with ten men after the 44th-minute dismissal of Sid Ali Yahia-Cherif, but, largely thanks to a series of saves by Asseiah – especially one from Osama Hosni - they eked out the draw.

“Today our strikers laid siege to the Kabylie goal but couldn’t convert any of the chances they created,” said Ahly coach Hossam Al Badri after yesterday’s encounter. “They were rather impulsive.”

Heartland, last year’s runners-up, are now just a point behind Ahly following a come-from-behind victory over Ismaily. Mohamed Hommos gave the visitors a 29th-minute lead, but after ThankGod Ike equalised on the stroke of half-time, Chinedu Efugh struck a late winner for the Nigerian heavyweights.

“I’m happy that we got the three points at last,” reflected Heartland coach Samson Siasia. “This is our first win and we hope it can go on like this. But I’m not happy with the way the defenders played.”

Heartland will visit Al Ahly in two weeks’ time, while JSK host Ismaily.