Coaching changes have come swift and fast over the last days with three former African champions all making changes. MAS Fez grabbed mid-season honours in Morocco albeit with a touch of good fortune while the fabled Cairo derby proved a disappointment for action-hungry fans. Nigeria’s league has a new leader, but in Tunisia the gap at the top remains between Esperance and Etoile Sahel. FIFA.com rounds up the action over the last days in some of Africa’s leagues.
Morocco: Coaching casualty
Defending champions Wydad Casablanca may be only six points adrift of top spot in the Botola but it has been deemed enough of a gap to see coach Diego Garzitto fired after the club were held to 0-0 at home by Chabab Kasba Tadla. Garzitto led TP Mazembe Englebert of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the 2009 CAF Champions League title but his tenure in Morocco lasted just three months.
Big game: OC Khouribga needed only a point to claim the honour of calling themselves mid-season champions but were derailed at home by Raja Casablanca, for whom Omar Nadji scored a dramatic late winner. Khouribga had taken the lead in the 25th minute through Mohamed Amine Najmi but then had Ismail Kouchame sent off on the stroke of half-time. This gave Raja a numerical advantage, which they used to good effect when Nadji equalised three minutes into the second half and then grabbed a 2-1 away win with a stoppage time goal at the end of the game.
Headline-grabbers: MAS Fez scored early at OC Safi but still lost 2-1, but Khouribga’s inability to usurp them means Fez remain one point ahead with Raja and Safi a further point behind. Safi came from behind to beat Fez through midfielder Youssef Agnaou, who is on loan from Raja and scored the winner at home against the top ranked team. It was the first goal since the move in September for Agnaou and stretched to five games Safi’s unbeaten run in the league
Nigeria: A paucity of goal power
Twelve goals in nine matches will not represent the kind of goal return Nigeria’s premier league is seeking in 2011, but the New Year’s weekend fixtures proved gritty and hard-fought with a general absence of goal-scoring fire-power. Warri Wolves are the exception to the rule, as their 3-0 home win over Zamfara United ensured an entertaining return for home fans and pushed them up to seventh in the standings.
Big game: For the first time this season, there is a gap of more than a point at the head of the Premier League standings after Dolphin FC won away at newly promoted Crown FC to overtake Sunshine Stars at the head of the table. Chidi Osuchukwu returned after a lay off with an ankle injury to grab the second half winner and a second away win of the season for the Port Harcourt-based side. His goal was set up by Omo Ojabu.
Headline-grabbers: Wolves’ captain Goodluck Onamado proved the talisman behind his side’s straightforward win over Zamfara, scoring and also setting up a goal. Tochukwu Mbachu had Wolves ahead first before Onamado scored at the end of a mazy run across half the pitch. The captain then turned provider after half-time as his cross was met perfectly by substitute Samson Kpenosen.
Egypt: Derby blues
The Egyptian League went into a three-week hiatus after giants Al Ahly and Zamalek drew their postponed derby on 30 December, disappointing expectant fans in a drab goalless draw. Zamalek are six points clear of their arch rivals, who after the game announced the return of legendary coach Manuel Jose. The 64-year-old Portuguese trainer is back for a third spell at the club with which he won 18 different trophies, including four CAF Champions League titles.
Big game: Zamalek are leaders but Al Ahly were still fancied for success given the depth of their experience in comparison to the youthful Zamalek side. But the derby saw few goal-scoring chances created, leaving fans frustrated, but Zamalek coach Hossam Hassan was more pleased than most. “Ahly had several players who are African champions while a lot of my guys were playing in the derby for the first time. It was a good result for us,” he said.
Headline-grabbers: Jose returns to Ahly to replace his former assistant Hossam Al Badri, who had taken the Portuguese coach’s place 18 months ago. Al Badri quit in November after Ahly were eliminated in the Champions League semi-finals, leading to six weeks of speculation over who would take on one of African club football’s most prestigious jobs. Several names were bandied about but once Jose quit his job in Saudi Arabia just ahead of Christmas, there was little doubt he was heading back to Cairo.
Tunisia: Title decider looming
The four-point gap between Esperance and second placed Etoile Sahel continued to be the focus of Tunisia’s Ligue 1 with both teams keeping up the pressure on each other, as has been the case in so many of the recent championship chases.
Big game: Oussama Darragi reiterated his value to Esperance as his 55th minute goal provided the winner at CS Hammam Lif and kept up the four-point lead for the Tunis giants at the lead of Ligue 1. Earlier the same day, Etoile Sahel had cut the lead to a single point after Ahmed Akaichi scored early to ensure a 1-0 home win over CS Sfaxien in a match with an earlier kick-off time.
Headline grabbers: Neither Nabil Maaloul nor Dramane Traore have yet to participate in any official form with their new club Esperance, but focus on the new coach and the imported striker from Mali respectively has been frenetic as the potential title deciding game between the top two teams looms ahead. Etoile Sahel will be hosting Esperance this coming weekend and a home win would mean just a one point gap at the top.
A last-minute goal from international defender Abdelkader Laifaoui spared Entente Setif the ignominy of home defeat and salvaged a 2-2 draw with Mouloudia Alger in a re-scheduled match in Algeria’s top division.
The Al Ahli derby between the Tripoli version and that from Libya’s second city Benghazi ended 1-0 in favour of Al Ahli Tripoli to keep them ahead in the national league standings.
Casa Sports returned from participating in a regional tournament in Benin to beat Jeanne d’Arc 2-0 at home in Ziguinchor, leaving the Senegalese champions with a single point from their opening three matches of the new season.