Champs Sfaxien begin with four-goal romp

CS Sfaxien of Tunisia launched their challenge for a record third consecutive African Confederation Cup title by defeating Al-Ahly Benghazi of Libya 4-1.

Hamza Younes led the goal charge with one in each half and Hamdi Rouid and Issam Merdassi were also on target for the only club to win the second-tier competition twice in a row. Libyan international Ahmed al-Masli struck a consolation goal four minutes into stoppage time, but Sfaxien will be hot favourites to survive the return match next month and reach the third qualifying round.

Sfaxien gained automatic entry to the African equivalent of the UEFA Cup as title holders so Tunisia have three contenders with Stade Tunisien and ECS Gafsa drawing their first matches. Stade are in trouble after a 0-0 deadlock with Stade Malien of Mali in Tunis, while Gafsa will be confident of progressing having forced a 1-1 draw against Moghreb Fes in Morocco, where they were denied victory by a late goal.

Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa were the other club to enjoy a three-goal winning margin with two from Katlego Mphela and another by Surprise Moriri earning them a 3-0 victory over Vacoas Phoenix in Mauritius. Clubs from the Indian Ocean island must dread being drawn against South African sides as last month champions Curepipe Starlight also suffered a three-goal home hiding.

It was a profitable weekend for Angolan clubs with African newcomers Santos and Recreativo Libolo both winning 1-0 away to stake strong claims for last 16 slots. Manucho Barros scored just before half-time to give Santos victory over USM of Gabon in Libreville while Henrique Maieco was the Libolo marksman on 16 minutes against SO Armee in Ivory Coast.

Egyptian clubs are renowned for defensive strength and it came as no surprise when Harass al-Hodoud forced a 0-0 draw at APR of Rwanda and ENPPI achieved a similar result away to CAPS United of Zimbabwe. Cairo-based ENPPI did get the ball in the net at Rufaro Stadium in Harare, but the Namibian referee ruled offside an effort by Ahmed Raouf during the first half.

Sfaxien aside, 1988 CAF African Champions Cup winners Entente Setif of Algeria are the only challengers to have lifted a continental trophy and they began impressively with a 1-0 win over Khaleej Sirt in Libya. Abdelmalek Ziaya scored the 13th-minute winner and this week Setif will divert their attention to the Arab Champions League where they are chasing a third consecutive title.

There were mixed results for Cameroon with Union Douala coming from behind to edge Tourbillon 2-1 in Chad while newcomers Aigle Royal Menoua fell 2-1 at US Ouagadougou of Burkina Faso. Return matches are slated for the weekend of 3-5 April with the traditional two-week gap between games stretched to three because of 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers.