ASEC Mimosas of Côte d'Ivoire were held 1-1 at home by ten-man Club Africain of Tunisia in the CAF Confederation Cup at the weekend and suffered an early setback to hopes of ending a 12-year continental trophy drought.
French coach Sebastien Desabre was confident his young, multi-talented side would get their Group A campaign off to a winning start after warming up with a lone-goal national cup win over bitter Abidjan rivals Africa Sports.
A 4-0 thumping of Angolan visitors Primeiro Agosto in a Confederation Cup play-off last month was another morale boost and the Ivorians appear on course for three points when Hugues Zagbayou opening the scoring on 63 minutes. But a Club Africain side that lost three of four previous away games in Africa this season drew level 15 minutes from full-time through Youssef Mouihbi and held on despite having Wajdi Mechergui sent off.
Despite boasting one of the best football academies on the continent and developing a host of players who perform in top European leagues, ASEC have found it difficult to collect African trophies. It took many CAF Champions League campaigns before they finally lifted the trophy in 1998 thanks to a 4-2 aggregate victory over Dynamos of Zimbabwe with all the goals coming during the second leg at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium.
That success earned ASEC an African Super Cup clash with Esperance of Tunisia, which they won 3-1, but there has been no continental silverware since and Desabre believes more clinical finishing holds the key to success. "We need to be more decisive in front of goal. The strikers should have scored many goals against Africa Sports instead of just one," he told the Confederation of African Football website.
Fortunately for the Ivorians, the other Group A match was also drawn with Patrick Lembo scoring in stoppage time to earn Angolan police outfit InterClube a 1-1 draw at Kaduna United of Nigeria. Ali Adamu gave Kaduna a 58th-minute lead as they tried to match the expectations of Belgian coach Maurice Cooreman, who has predicted his side will go on to become the first Confederation Cup winners from Nigeria.
The other Nigerian challengers for a $660,000 first prize, Sunshine Stars, fared better with a 2-0 Group B home win over former CAF Cup Winners Cup title holders Daring Club Motema Pembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Dayo Ojo and Ibrahim Ajani scored the second-half goals that took Stars to the top of the table on goal difference from Moghreb Fes of Morocco, who edged 10-man JS Kabylie of Algeria thanks to a late header from Chemseddine Chetaibi.