The three-prong Moroccan assault on the African Confederation Cup came within seconds of being reduced at the weekend. Difaa al-Jadida needed a last-minute goal from Vivien Mabide to snatch a 1-1 draw at home to Malians Centre Salif Keita and a second-round place on the away-goal rule.
Salif Keita was the first winner of the African Footballer of the Year award 41 years ago when football journalists across the continent voted in a poll organised by France Football magazine. But the national star-cum-club owner could not have been too hopeful of African progress when his team scrambled a 2-2 first-leg draw in Bamako after trailing by two goals.
CSK exceeded expectations, however, by surviving the anticipated early Jadida onslaught and snatching the lead midway through the second half via Yacouba Niare. With the seconds ticking away, Mabide turned party pooper and earned his club a last-32 date with Olympique Beja of Tunisia, one of 12 clubs to receive first-round byes.
Fellow Moroccans Moghreb Fes scored twice in the final five minutes to complete a 4-1 victory over Benin visitors USS Krake after a drawn first leg in west Africa. Former national team striker Tarik Sektioui gave Moghreb the lead twice after Didier Sossa cancelled his first goal and Senegalese Kader Fall and Idriss Belamri were on target in the closing stages.
FUS to begin title-defence
The Moroccan challenge is completed by title holders FUS Rabat, who defied long odds last year to become the second club from the North African kingdom after neighbours FAR to win the second-tier competition. FUS were granted a first-round bye and begin their title defence next month against Toure Kunda of Senegal, who squeezed through by forcing a 2-2 draw in Freetown with Ports Authority of Sierra Leone.
Tanzanian outfit Young Africans crashed out of the tournament after a 2-0 loss to Dedebit in Ethiopia sealed their fate following an eight-goal first-leg deadlock two weeks ago. Yanga were second best on the field against opponents appearing in Africa for the first time this year and Getaneh Kebebe and Temesgan Tekle scored the goals that set up a date with Harras al-Hodoud of Egypt.
AC Leopard of Congo, Al-Nasr of Libya, Foullah Edifice of Chad, Sofapaka of Kenya, Adema of Madagascar, Wits University of South Africa, USFA of Burkina Faso, Tiko United of Cameroon and Victors of Uganda all also advanced.