African Leagues review

Algeria’s league reached the halfway mark with ASO Chlef heading the standings in search of a first-ever championship, and Morocco’s league is also at the midway point with three sides sharing top spot. Berekum Chelsea are edging closer to the title in Ghana, while in Angola there were some shocks on the opening weekend of the new season.

Algeria: At the halfway point
It might be well into March, but ASO Chlef have won the nominal title of winter champions in Algeria, moving to the top of the standings as three previously postponed games completed the first half of the season. Chlef’s 3-1 win over WA Tlemcen saw them go two points ahead of Entente Setif, who were held to a draw at CR Belouizdad.

Big game: Chlef went in 1-1 at half-time but goals in the second half from Mohamed Messaoud shortly after the break and a last minute striker from Cameroon import Aime Gerard Mongolo ensured the 3-1 triumph. It brought a satisfied verdict from coach Meziane Ighil, who said: “This bodes well for the rest of the season. The players played at a high pace for 70 minutes and that made me happy.”
Headline-grabbers: Entente Setif, who were runners-up last season, appointed new Italian coach Giovanni Dellacasa in January, but he has only had two league matches in charge, both coming this week. The 49-year-old previously coached extensively in Switzerland, and his side won 2-1 at home over USM Annaba in midweek before the scoreless draw at Belouizdad.

Ghana: Preparing for the derby
It is rare that the Accra-Kumasi encounter which pits Hearts of Oak from the capital against Asante Kotoko has little bearing on the outcome of the Premier League but that is the reality this year. Both are well off the pace in this season’s title race. It does not diminish, however, the intense interest in the game to be played next weekend, and both warmed up this weekend with wins.

Big game: Kotoko’s revival after their horror start to the season sees them now up to fifth in the standings, albeit 16 points behind the leaders. Their latest victim were defending champions Aduana Stars, beaten 3-0 with goals from Frank Boateng, Nii Adjei and veteran midfielder Stephen Oduro. Hearts were 2-1 at Liberty Professionals.
Headline-grabbers: Bismark Idan scored the only goal for Berekum Chelsea in a tough 1-0 win over second-placed Medeama Sporting Club to keep his side 13 points ahead in the title race and move them closer to a first-ever championship in just their second season in the top flight. 

Morocco: Leaders keep changing
Raja Casablanca were the only one of the title chasing top three to win at the weekend and claimed back the leadership of the Botola. They lead MAS Fez and OC Safi on goal difference only, taking advantage of draws from both their rivals. Safi were just five minutes away from a surprise home defeat to Widad Fez but got a late penalty to grab a point, while MAS Fez also needed a penalty in a setback at home to KAC de Kenitra.

Big game: MAS Fez had been at the helm of the league before the weekend and would have been confident of staying there at home to struggling Kenitra, especially after Kader Fall was brought down early on the game and Hamza Abourazzouk converted the resulting penalty. But Kenitra showed a fighting spirit to equalise 15 minutes from time through Younes El Andaloussi.
Headline-grabbers: Raja suffered a surprise setback last week and were in determined mood but took until two minutes before half-time to score with Yassine Salhi heading home a rebound against Agadir. It took to five his tally of goals for the season, two behind the top scorer Omar Hassi of Widad Fez.

Angola: A new campaign begins
Angolan clubs have been preparing in Brazil, Portugal and South Africa for the start of the new GiraBola season, seeking to keep intact the growing sense of competition after years of the league being dominated by just two clubs, Petro Luanda and Primeiro de Agosto. Petro had a horror start to the 2011 season, beaten 2-0 at home by FC Cabinda while Primeiro drew with champions InterClube.

Big game: Champions InterClube lost in the Super Cup before the start of the league season and finished the last campaign on a losing note in the Angola Cup final. Hopes of a turn for the better did not materialise with Primeiro left to lament missed opportunities in a goalless draw. The game between the two Luanda sides was played at the Ombaka Stadium in Benguela, one of the new stadiums built for last year’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Headline-grabbers: FC Cabinda had pulled off a surprise win over an ailing Petro last September, but this weekend’s 2-0 triumph at Luanda’s cavernous Cidadela Stadium was a massive upset. The goals came from Bebeto and Luciano despite Petro’s dominance and puts immediate pressure on Petro’s new coach Miroslav Maksimovic.

Al Merreikh beat arch rivals Al Hilal 1-0 behind closed doors in the Sudan derby as both suffered the consequence of recent crowd problems.

For a second time, the planned resumption of the league was put off in Tunisia with the civil situation still considered too risky to host football matches.

Leaders Dolphin FC beat defending champions Enyimba 2-1 and are still four points clear at the top of the standings in Nigeria.