Nigerian club Kano Pillars made an unexpectedly early exit from the CAF Champions League this weekend despite a 2-1 win over Congo DR visitors Vita. The Kinshasa club, who won the competition 41 years ago, advanced 4-3 on aggregate having built a two-goal first-leg advantage last Sunday.
When the 2014 draw for the premier African club competition was made, the Vita-Kano clash stood out as the highlight of the preliminary qualifying round. And most pundits believed 2009 semi-finalists Pillars would prevail and probably face South African side Kaizer Chiefs during March for a group stage place.
Chiefs, who draw 1-1 with Black Africa in Namibia to cruise into the round of 32, must be relieved that Pillars have been eliminated. South Africa have a poor record against fellow economic powerhouse Nigeria, losing consistently at national team and club levels.
Vita knew an away goal was crucial in northern city Kano to cancel the one scored by Pillars, and it came just one minute into the return game. Etekiama Agiti netted for the Congolese and it took much pressure and several substitutions before second-half goals by Kabiru Umar and Abdul Haruna raised Nigerian hopes.
But the third goal that would have forced a penalty shootout proved elusive as Vita survived an onslaught to book a probable first-round date with 1998 runners-up Dynamos of Zimbabwe.
Chiefs travelled to Windhoek with a 3-0 cushion and any hopes of a dramatic Black Africa comeback evaporated just seven minutes into the game when Zimbabwean Kingston Nkhatha scored. However, the Namibians proved much more competitive at home than in Soweto, Willy Stephanus equalised, and it took several fine saves from stand-in Reyaad Pieterse to prevent a home win.
Nkana fight back
Zambian side Nkana trounced Swazi visitors Mbabane Swallows 5-2 to atone for a shock two-goal first-leg reverse in southern Africa. The 1990 runners-up were indebted to Ronald Kampamba, who bagged an early brace, and hat-trick star Simon Bwalya.
A Swallows side coached by Zambian Christopher Tembo led 1-0 on the Zambian Copperbelt and trailed 4-1 before a Wonder Nhleko goal nudged them ahead on the away-goal rule. But Bwalya rescued Nkana 13 minutes from time with his third goal, an unstoppable close-range shot that secured a showdown with Ugandans KCCA.
The Kampala club also had an anxious passage, losing 2-1 against visiting Sudanese side El-Merrikh after building a shock 2-0 away lead. Tony Odur scored for the Ugandans within seven minutes, but Ahmed El-Basha levelled before half-time and a Mohamed Traore goal set up a tense climax.
A third goal would have squeezed Merrikh through and they wasted several chances with Ethiopian Shemelis Bekele the chief culprit.
Moroccans Raja Casablanca, runners-up to Bayern Munich in the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup, were among seven other clubs to book round of 32 slots. Young Africans of Tanzania, Real Bamako of Mali, Flambeau l'Est of Burundi, ASFA Yennenga of Burkina Faso, AC Leopards of Congo and Kabuscorp of Angola joined them.