Late goals propel clubs into group stage
© AFP

A flurry of last-minute goals ensured dramatic finishes to the CAF Champions League matches at the weekend as the field for the group phase began to take shape. Seven sides have booked their places in the last eight, where the clubs are to be drawn into two groups of four during next Sunday’s draw in Cairo.

The sides will include the Egyptian giants Al Ahly, seeking a record seventh title, and defending champions TP Mazembe Englebert of the Democratic Republic of Congo, trying to become the first side to win Africa’s top club competition three years in a row.

Both of those heralded clubs scraped through – Al Ahly by a single goal over two legs and Mazembe with the benefit of a dramatic late winner, as was also the case with two former continental champions: Mouloudia Alger of Algeria and Raja Casablanca. Two-time winners Enyimba, Al Hilal and Esperance, who were the only team to post a comfortable third round aggregate win, are the others who have qualified.

The last place will be decide on Friday when the postponed tie between Coton Sport of Cameroon and Entente Setif is completed. The two teams played their first leg in Garoua on Saturday where a second half romp saw Coton Sport take a giant leap to the league phase with a 4-1 win. They will now travel to Algeria in confident mood ahead of the second leg.

Favourites leave it late
Mazembe, who had trailed Wydad Casablanca by a single goal from the first leg last month, took more than a hour to achieve parity. Patou Kabangu, hero of their success last year, scored after 69 minutes but the real drama came when Bedi Mpenza sent the home crowd wild in the final minute of the match with the winner.

Al Ahly's Mohamed Barakat, another hero of past Champions League successes, came off the bench in Cairo to secure a narrow 1-0 aggregate win over Zambia's Zesco United of Zambia. His 66th-minute goal broke down the visiting side’s resistance, although they did lose defender Billy Mwanza after he was struck on the arm by fireworks thrown from the crowd which caused a five minute halt in the second half.

Having drawn away in Angola in the first leg, Mouloudia Alger had home advantage for the return but made heavy weather of their 4-3 aggregate triumph over InterClube of Angola. They were handed a stoppage time penalty, converted by Brahim Bedbouda, to win 3-2, without which they would have gone out on the away goals rule. Bedbouda, who has been linked with a possible move to Europe next season, says he stepped up to take the decisive kick when he noticed hesitation on the part of his team-mates. “I took the ball and said I’ll take the responsibility. Thankfully I hit it in the right spot. It was a tense moment,” he told reporters after Saturday’s win.

Raja Casablanca hosted ASEC Abidjan and were also awarded a late penalty to draw the match 1-1 before going on to win on post-match penalties. There was only one tie between the two teams, ASEC having forfeited their home game because of the security situation in their hometown. It was the same for Libya’s Al Ittihad, who travelled to Aba in Nigeria to face Enyimba and were eliminated by a 70th-minute penalty from Victor Barnabas.

A crowd invasion brought a premature halt to the match between Club Africain of Tunisia and Al Hilal of Sunday, who advance 2-1 on aggregate. Al Hilal had a slender one-goal lead from the first leg in Khartoum but extended it when Zimbabwe international Edward Sadomba scored again. Club Africain equalised through Khaled Melliti but needed two more goal to advance before the referee called off the game in the 84th minute.

CAF Champions League, second round, second leg results
Saturday
Mouloudia Alger (Algeria) 3-2 InterClube (Angola)
First leg: 1-1. Mouloudia Alger won 4-3 on aggregate
Raja Casablanca (Morocco) 1-1 ASEC Abidjan (Ivory Coast)
Note: Match consisted of one leg. Raja Casablanca won 5-4 on penalties.
Club Africain (Tunisia) 1-1 Al Hilal (Sudan)
First leg: 0-1. Al Hilal won 2-1 on aggregate.

Sunday
Enyimba (Nigeria) 1-0 Al Ittihad (Libya)
Note: Match consisted of one leg.
Al Ahly (Egypt) 1-0 Zesco United (Zambia)
First leg: 0-0. Al Ahly won 1-0 on aggregate
Diaraf Dakar (Senegal) 0-1 Esperance (Tunisia)
First leg: 0-5. Esperance won 6-0 on aggregate
TP Mazembe Englebert (DR Congo, holders) 2 Wydad Casablanca (Morocco) 0
First leg: 0-1. TP Mazembe won 2-1 on aggregate