Moroccan club Raja Casablanca were knocked out of the CAF Champions League this weekend just three months after finishing runners-up in the FIFA Club World Cup. The three-time African champions defeated Guinean visitors Horoya 1-0 at Stade Mohamed V only to lose 5-4 on penalties.
A dramatic finish to the first round qualifier in the premier African club competition saw Mouhssine Iajour net the lone goal just three minutes from time. But Horoya, regular but largely unsuccessful participants in CAF competitions, recovered from the disappointment to display greater spot-kick accuracy.
Raja were among the favourites for the title this year having greatly exceeded expectations in the Club World Cup hosted by Morocco last December. After a routine win over New Zealanders Auckland City, they upset Mexicans Monterrey and stunned Ronaldinho-inspired Brazilians Atletico Mineiro before being beaten 2-0 by Bayern Munich in the final.
Green Devils midfielder Marouane Zemmama was hyper confident ahead of the two-leg clash with Horoya, who have never come close to reaching the group stage of the competition. "Raja are the greatest club in Africa ... I don't see why we cannot do it (win the CAF Champions League this year)," he told the BBC. Horoya won the first leg 1-0 in Conakry last weekend through a Moussa Keita goal and now face Tunisians CS Sfaxien or Ethiopians Dedebit for a mini-league slot.
Nigerians Enyimba were another big-name club to crash out of the 50th edition of the competition. The Peoples Elephant triumphed 1-0 away to Malians Real Bamako with Bala Zaka scoring the match-winner on the stroke of half-time at Stade Modibo Keita.
However, the 2003 and 2004 title-holders lost on the away-goal rule having suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at their Aba fortress last weekend. The result means both Nigerian challengers have been eliminated with Kano Pillars losing to Congo DR outfit Vita in the preliminaries last month. This was the second prized scalp within two months for Real, who dumped 1985 champions Moroccans FAR Rabat in the previous round.
Zamalek hang on
Egyptians Zamalek and Algerian side Entente Setif - the other former champions in action - fought goalless away draws to advance in contrasting fashions. Zamalek, whose five Champions League victories makes them the second most successful club after eight-title compatriots Al-Ahly, squeezed past Angolans Kabuscorp 1-0 on aggregate.
The narrow advantage the White Knights brought from Cairo was almost surrendered several times at Estadio 1 Novembro in Luanda and the Angolans had a goal ruled offside. Congo DR playmaker Tresor Mputu was outstanding for Kabuscorp while veteran Zamalek goalkeeper Abdel Wahed El-Sayed produced several superb saves.
Congo Brazzaville outfit AC Leopards survived a major scare in Angola, losing 2-0 to Primeiro Agosto after taking a 4-1 lead into the return match. Guilherme Afonso put military club Primeiro ahead after only three minutes and Amaro netted just after half-time, but a third goal that would have won the tie eluded the hosts.
Nkana rekindled memories of past African exploits by winning 2-1 at Ugandans KCCA to scrape through having been held at home. Claude Bwalya put the 1990 runners-up ahead during the first half, Brian Majwega levelled after the break and Christopher Munthali struck the winner just before the hour mark.
Zimbabwean Knowledge Musona scored a hat-trick as South Africans Kaizer Chiefs emphasised their superiority over Mozambicans Liga Muculmana by winning 3-0 in Maputo having built a four-goal lead at home. Defending champions Al-Ahly, who trail Tanzanians Young Africans 1-0 ahead of the return match in Alexandria, are among 18 clubs seeking second-round places later Sunday.