Traditional rivalries are back to the fore in both the Egyptian and Tunisian leagues, as Zamalek maintain a narrow lead over Al Ahly, while Esperance and Etoile Sahel are again battling in Tunisia. In Algeria, there is still a major gap between ASO Chlef and the chasing pack, while Angola’s new season has produced some surprise early leaders.
Tunisia Ligue 1: Esperance storm ahead
Having dropped vital points in midweek and surrendered advantage in Ligue 1, Esperance got their noses back out in front again at the weekend with a impressive 3-0 win away at third-placed CS Sfaxien. However, their three point lead is only because Etoile Sahel had their match at JS Kairouan called off at half-time due to a violent rain storm.
Big game: Former CAF Confederations Cup winners, Sfaxien were seven points off the pace, but had hopes of cutting into the leaders’ advantage when they hosted Esperance. Those ambitions faded quickly, though, as Oussama Darragi put the Sang et Or (Blood and Gold) ahead after 20 minutes, and team-mates Dramane Traore and Youssef Mskani added two more in the final 12 minutes for a convincing away win, which lifts Esperance to 40 points.
Headline-grabber: Etoile Sahel’s banishment from this season’s Confederation Cup held the headlines for much of the week, and that looked to impact their concentration on the pitch at Kairouan. Two quick goals on the stroke of half-time kept the two sides level, but the adverse weather meant the match was ultimately called off and will go ahead in midweek, with Etoile needing to win to stay level with in form Esperance.
Angola GiraBola: New names to the fore
In recent years there has been an overhaul of the landscape in Angolan club football, with the traditionally dominant clubs swept aside by a new generation of talent. Unfamiliar names in unfamiliar leadership roles in the standings are now the norm with Kabuscorp finding themselves co-top after their 2-0 weekend win over Primeiro de Maio, level with Recreativo Libolo, who drew at Sagrada Esperanca.
Big game: InterClube narrowly crashed out of the CAF Champions League last week in Algeria and then had more arduous travel with a weekend trip to FC Cabinda, but they showed renewed fortitude in gaining a goalless draw. It was a good start for their new Portuguese coach Antonio Caldas, who fills a vacancy left since the start of the season.
Headline-grabber: Abel and Sawu got the goals that saw Kabuscorp beat Primeiro de Maio from Benguela at Luanda's 'Estadio dos Coqueiros' and leap to the top after nine matches. But it was the trickery and brilliance of midfielder Doutor Lamy that stole the show as he led an all-out attack on their visitors and was instrumental in setting up the win.
Egypt Premier League: Just like old times
Cairo giants Al Ahly and Zamalek enter the final third of the season looking to restore their historic rivalry and set up an absorbing finish to the season. Al Ahly’s 2-1 win away over Wadi Degla SC kept them just one point behind Zamalek, who posted a comfortable 3-0 home win some 24 hours earlier.
Big game: It took Zamalek 80 minutes before they managed to break down the defence of stubborn Smouha, who are second from bottom on the log, but substitutes Ahmed Gaafar and Hussein Yasser came off the bench to stave off an embarrassing setback. International Mahmoud Shikabala Fadlallah got the other for the White Knights.
Headline-grabber: Striker Dominique da Silva had fallen foul of disciplinary procedures in recent weeks, but there has nothing negative about the finishing of the Mauritania international, who got the winner for Ahly on the stroke of half-time against Wadi Degla, who played just under an hour down to ten men. The win means Al Ahly are unbeaten in 12 and have won five of their last six league games.
Algeria Premier Division: Room at the top
ASO Chlef lost ground in the championship race after being held to a 0-0 draw at home by MC Saida, but they still boast a handy eight point lead at the top. Entente Setif were busy being knocked out of the CAF Champions League in Cameroon, which allowed USM El Harrach and CR Belouizdad to jump them into second and third respectively after wins.
Big game: Mouloudia Alger have been reviving memories of their glory days with a first qualification to the group phase of the Champions League last weekend and then a 2-1 away win over neighbours USM Alger in the capital city derby. Defender Hamza Zeddam’s sixth-minute goal put MCA ahead early, and Youcef Sofiane made it 2-0 just before the hour mark. USMA pulled one back almost immediately, but were unable to conjure up any more.
Headline-grabber: Djamel Menad has legendary status in Algeria as a member of the 1990 side that won the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, but it was not enough to save him from losing his job at JSM Bejaia after a 2-0 home loss to USM El Harrach.
Tarik Sektioui scored the only goal of the derby as MAS Fez defeated Widad to stay second in Morocco’s Botola, behind Raja Casablanca.
The league in South Africa will be settled on Saturday with Ajax Cape Town guaranteed a first-ever title if they win at home to Maritzburg United.
Dolphin FC and Sunshine Stars, on 46 and 42 points respectively, continued to pull away from the rest of the table in Nigeria with weekend victories, but there are three teams trailing them on 35.