Mamelodi Sundowns have opened up a decent gap at the top of South Africa’s premier league while Al Ahly continue to stutter in Egypt. Tunisia’s long standing battle between Esperance and Etoile Sahel for league supremacy is repeating itself all over again and there is also little to choose between a myriad of clubs in the early stages of the new Nigerian season. FIFA.com rounds up the weekend action in some of Africa’s leagues.
South Africa: Hangover exploited
Mamelodi Sundowns’ lead at the head of the Premier Soccer League was extended to four points with an away win at Lamontville Golden Arrows as Kaizer Chiefs dropped from second place and allowed Ajax Cape Town and Orlando Pirates to catapult above them in the standings. Ajax are second now after winning at Mpumalanga Black Aces with Pirates third and Chiefs fourth.
Big game: Exactly one week after success in South Africa’s League Cup final, where they beat Orlando Pirates 3-0 in front of 91,727 people at Soccer city, Chiefs came back down to earth with a jolt as lowly Free State Stars beat them at Botshabelo. Chiefs are notorious for disastrous performances in the immediate aftermath of cup glory and so it proved again as Stars took advantage of their celebratory hangover. A mistake by Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune allowed Boitumelo Sekgobea to score after 13 minutes for the game’s only glory.
Headline-grabbers: Ruud Krol likes to insist that after playing in two FIFA World Cup™ Finals, he is a man who thrives on pressure, and the Dutch-born coach had some telling comments for critics after his Orlando Pirates team scored late to beat Bloemfontein Celtic 2-1 at home to go third in the standings. After a heavy loss to archrivals Chiefs in the cup final, Krol’s future was the subject of much speculation leading up to the game, but the coach said expectations had run riot and claims of a crisis were an exaggeration.
Egypt: A drawing crisis
There were only three league games on a weekend dominated by cup football, but victory for Ismaily over bottom-placed Smouha pushed them to within two points of leaders Zamalek. Ismaily scored three times in 16 minutes, but then allowed their opponents back into the game and had to hang on for the three points. Al Ahly stayed in fifth place on 20 points after being held to a 2-2 draw in Alexandria by Al Ittihad.
Big game: Al Ahly have now gone four matches without a win, and the giants of African football are in something of a mini crisis as they await a new leader in the aftermath of the resignation of coach Hossam Al Badri. They had to come from behind to draw 2-2 with struggling Ittihad, for whom former Ahly striker Hani Al Egeizi scored. Ahly, who have had to make up several matches in the Premier League after their exertions in the CAF Champions League, are fast falling behind leaders Zamalek although they still have one more game in hand.
Headline-grabbers: Abdelaziz Abdelshafi has the tough task of being caretaker coach of Al Ahly up until the 30 December derby with Zamalek, and he has been appealing for calm after the club’s continued indifference on the pitch. Supporters of Africa’s most successful club are not used to dips in form and Abdelshafi says fans must be patient as the Cairo giants seek to find their rhythm again in the wake of the coaching change and a disappointing semi-final exit in the Champions League.
Nigeria: Sunshine at the top
Warri Wolves’ unbeaten run finally came to an end after six games as the Premier League leaders were deposed by a late header from Captain Ejindu in their meeting at Dolphin FC. The result catapulted Dolphin to second place above Wolves, who dropped down to third spot, one point back. The new leaders are now Sunshine Stars, who top the standings only thanks to goals scored after a 3-1 win over Gombe United.
Big game: Sunshine Stars had to come from behind to win against Gombe United and keep up their 100-per cent home record. It was their fourth win in six games but the standings in Nigeria remain tight with three points separating the top 11 teams in the 20-team table.
Headline-grabbers: New signing Ukeyima Akombo increased his goal tally for the season to four with a goal just before half-time against Gombe United. Akombo is back from two years in Scandinavia where he played at clubs in both Sweden and Finland, and he is the early leader in the Premier League goal-scoring charts.
Tunisia: Esperance lose first game
There is now just one point separating Esperance and Etoile Sahel in the Ligue 1 standings as Esperance slumped to their first defeat of the season at AS Gabes while Etoile squeezed through right at the end of a dramatic game with Esperance Zarzis.
Big game: Ordinarily this is a routine fixture for Esperance, but the leaders suffered against a side who had not won a game in the past two months. Esperance were roundly criticised for not applying themselves against Gabes and paid the price as they found themselves two down at half-time to goals from Amine Aouichaoui and a penalty from Tarek Abdelli.
Headline grabbers: Left back Aymen Abdennour scored the only goal against ES Zarzis to ensure Etoile Sahel moved to within one point of their perennial rivals in the standings. The winner came six minutes into stoppage time at the end of the game in Sousse and transformed the frustrated crowd into a euphoric party. Abdennour came storming forward to convert from a dramatic last-gasp corner.
Coton Sport beat Panthere Nde to take over the lead in Cameroon Elite One standings on a weekend when national team coach Javier Clemente flew in from Spain to watch matches in Douala in search for players to bolster his squad.
Al Ittihad scored in the final minute through Mohamed Zubya to continue their catch up mission in Libya. They are now five points behind leaders Al Ahli Benghazi but with two games in hand.
FUS Rabat were hoping to continue celebrations after their African Confederation Cup success with victory in the derby against Royal Armed Forces, but their Morocco Super League game ended 1-0 in favour of the soldiers.