Esperance on the ropes
© AFP

While the race for a place in the semi-finals int he CAF Champions League is evenly balanced in Group A with all four clubs sitting on three points – separated only by goals scored – the situation in Group B is slightly different. Surprisingly, Tunisian giants Esperance, whose have been no less than at least a semi-finalist in the past four years are currently struggling.

The Blood and Gold are the only team of the eight remaining in the competition to have yet to secure a point after losing both their opening matches and are now four points behind the leading clubs CS Sfaxien and ES Setif. The weekend's action across Africa is reviewed in detail here.

Match of the week

Al Ahly Benghazi 3-2 Esperance
After knocking out their namesakes from Cairo, who were also the title holders, Al Ahly Benghazi found victories in the group stages could not be taken for granted as they were beaten by Tunisian club CS Sfaxien in their first Group B match. The second matchday saw them take on one of the competition's favorites in Esperance. Playing away from home due to the security situation in Libya, Al Ahly enjoyed a terrific start, going up two goals within the first quarter of an hour with Edward Sadomba and Faraj Mbarak finding the net. Ahmed Akaishi pulled one back for the visitors in the 20th minute, but Moses Orkuma ensured a two-goal lead for the Libyan side at the break with a third goal a minute before half-time. After Oussama Darragi scored a second for Esperance with 12 minutes to go, their fans were hoping that the Blood and Gold could snatch a draw for their first point but they failed to find an equalizing goal. Esperance and their Dutch coach Ruud Krol parted ways after the match, with the club announcing that the teams' technical director, Sebastien Desabre would take over.

Other matches
The other Group B match saw Algerian club ES Setif, who beat Esperance in their opening game, draw 1-1 at home against the other Tunisian club remaining in the competition, CS Sfaxien. El Hedi Belameiri, who scored one of the goals for Setif in their 2-1 victory against Esperance, opened the scoring early on for his side, but Ali Maaloul leveled matters shortly before the break. The draw leaves both clubs on four points, while Al Ahly have three.

In Group A, all four teams have three points as the run of home wins continues. Egyptian club Zamalek, who are looking for a sixth title, managed to put their opening round defeat at Vita Club behind them as they beat Sudanese club Al Hilal 2-1. Dominique da Silva gave the White Knights an early lead, but Mudather El Tahir made the most of a Zamalek mistake to see two-time finalists Al Hilal, whose record in the competition includes three previous semi-final appearances, the last one in 2011, draw level. Mohamed Abdel Shafy found a late winner for Zamalek, who again were playing in an empty stadium. In Lubumbash, Mazembe continued their domination against Vita Club, wining their fourth row in a match against their arch-rivals. The only goal of the game came on the hour through Mbwana Samatta.

Player of the week

After losing their opening group game in Sudan against Al Hilal, the pressure was on four-time champions TP Mazembe to beat local DR Congo rivals Vita Club in their second match. After failing to find the net in the first half, the home side needed to up their game and Tanzanian international Mbwana Samatta was the man who found the goal that gave the Ravens the three points. The 22-year-old striker joined Mazembe in 2011 from Tanzanian team Simba. A year later his goals helped the club from Lubumbashi to the semi-finals. In this year's campaign, Samatta scored both goals for his side in the final qualifying round against Sewe Sports, and he then followed that up with the vital goal against Vita Club.

The stat
7 -
The number of years since a Libyan club won a match in the group phase of the Champions League. In September 2007 Al Ittihad defeated Etoile du Sahel 2-0, but Al Ahly Benghazi ended the long wait with a 3-2 win against Esperance on the weekend.

What they said
"If we have ambitions to qualify for the semis we have to win all the coming games. I am confident of the players' ability to win the away games as well as the home games," Zamalak coach Mido said after his side got their first points with a 2-1 victory against Al Hilal.

Have your say
Can Esperance bounce back from two defeats to still qualify for the semi-finals and stay in contention for a third continental title? History is against the Blood and Gold as only one club has managed that in the history of the competition. In 2003 Algerian team USM Alger lost their two opening games, but still finished runners-up in their group behind Esperance.