African football powerhouses Nigeria and Ghana were among the big losers in the return legs of the CAF Champions League as both countries failed to get a club into the final round of qualifying ahead of the lucrative group phase.
Another big name to fall by the wayside were former champions Raja Casablanca. The 16 winners now advance to the second round of qualifying with the winner of the competition representing the continent at the FIFA World Club Cup in Morocco at the end of the year.
Game of the week
Al Ahly 1-0 Young Africans
Defending champions Al Ahly of Egypt avoided an embarrassing exit after overcoming Tanzania’s Young Africans on penalties following a 1-1 aggregate draw. Struggling for creativity, the Red Devils were unable to break down a dogged Young Africans defence in the first half, but Al Ahly improved after the break with the introduction of forward Elsayed Hamdy and midfielder Mahmoud Hassan injecting zeal up front. Left-back Sayed Moawad broke the resistance of the visitors with a left-foot volley in the 71st minute to force a penalty shootout. Goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy was Ahly’s hero, blocking two spot-kicks as his side emerged as 4-3 shootout victors to book a last-16 berth.
Raja Casablanca 1-0 Horaya
Having lost the first leg match in Conakry 1-0, the three-time champions Raja Casablanca, who in December advanced to the FIFA World Club Cup final, were expected to overturn the result at home and remain in the competition. They found the going tougher than expected and only managed to level the tie a few minutes from the end when Mouhssine Iajour found the net for the home side. With the tie going to penalties, Guinean side Horaya, who have never progressed beyond the first round in the Champions League, prevailed 5-4.
Liberian club Barrack Young Controllers' fairytale campaign in the Champions League came to an end in Côte d’Ivoire with a 1-0 defeat against Sewe Stars, while Coton Sport ended Flambeau de l'Est's run with a 5-0 victory to win 5-1 on aggregate. Al Ahly Benghazi set up a second round clash with their Cairo namesakes after beating Ghana's Berekum Chelsea 2-0, and former winners TP Mazembe had few problems in overcoming Les Astres 3-0 for a 4-1 aggregate victory.
Cairo giants Zamalek held on for a scoreless draw in Luanda against Kabuscorp to win their tie 1-0 aggregate, while fellow North Africans CS Sfaxien and ES Setif also advanced to the second round, while AC Leopards, who last season came agonizingly close to making the semi-final, remain in the hunt for another place in the group phase, despite slumping to a 2-0 defeat against Angolan club Primeiro de Agosto, as they won the first leg 4-1.
On Monday, Haythem Jouini grabbed a 13-minute hat-trick as Tunisians Esperance saw off Gor Mahia 5-0 in their delayed qualifier. The result saw them progress 8-2 on aggregate, meaning they will face Malians AS Real Bamako in the second round of qualifiers, after they overcame much-fancied Nigerians Enyimba.
Player of the week
Although only 23, Knowlege Musona can already look back at two seasons spent in the German Bundesliga before returning to Kaizer Chiefs on loan from Hoffenheim. With the form displayed in Mozambique during Chiefs' second match, the striker could well be back in Europe next season as he scored a first-half hat-trick against Liga Muculmana before being granted a well-earned rest in the second half by coach Stuart Baxter. Musona's goals gave the Amakhosi a 7-0 aggregate victory and sent the home side to their first-ever home defeat in continental competitions.
1 – It is the first time that a Nigerian club has failed to advance to the second round of the qualifying of the competition. In all but four of the 17 times this format of the tournament has been played, the west African country had a club in the group phase, but on the three previous occasions they failed at the last hurdle. After Kanu Pillars were knocked out by AS Vita Club in the preliminary round, two-time champions Enyimba failed to progress past AS Real Bamako and Nigerian fans will be watching from the sidelines as the last 16 clubs in the competition fight it out for a place in the group phase.
What they said
"They became impatient in the second half and that allowed us to create many chances. We could have won by an even bigger margin,” said Nkana FC coach Masautso Mwale, whose side beat Kampala City Council Authority FC 2-1 in Uganda to advance to the second round 4-3 on aggregate.
Have your say
Can Al Ahly Benghazi overcome their Cairo name-sakes Al Ahly to qualify for the Champions League group phase for the first time in their history?