Senegalese, South African champs fall
© AFP

Orlando Pirates could not overturn a first leg deficit to Recreativo de Libolo and went out of the CAF Champions League at the preliminary stage this weekend. The South African champions, who won the event in 1995, were joined on the losing list by Senegalese holders US Ouakam and Cameroon runners-up Les Astres. On the reverse side, Egypt's Zamalek made hard work of Tanzanian opposition, but the five-time African champions go through - along with the champions from Algeria, Ghana, Nigeria and Côte d'Ivoire - into the Round of 32, where a host of larger clubs join the fray for the first time.

Surprise as Pirates sunk
After the off-season arrival of former European champion Benni McCarthy, Pirates were seemingly set for a run at the continent's best and were seen as one of the dark horse sides. But a nightmare 3-1 defeat by Libolo to open the competition in Port Elizabeth two weeks ago left them stunned and with little option but to attack in the return. The Angolan champions did well to manage the up-tempo start, and their plan of sitting back and looking for a breakthrough against the run of play paid off near the half-hour mark when captain Maieco 'Rasca' Henrique rose to head home from a corner. It was the Angola striker's third goal of the tie after a brace two weeks ago. And though Andile Jali pulled one back just before half-time, and the 34-year-old talisman McCarthy came on to lead the line at the hour mark, the Bucs were never going to make up the deficit.

Another champion to fall surprisingly at the weekend was US Ouakam, who were eliminated on penalties by Gambia's Brikama. The Senegalese held a 1-0 advantage from the first match in Brikama, but the Gambians reversed the score in Dakar and then had the best of the shoot-out by a 3-1 margin. They will face defending champions Esperance of Tunisia in the next round, which will take place in March and April. Also going up against Tunisian opposition next will be Rwanda's APR, who won an east African derby over Kenya's Tusker by a 1-0 aggregate score. Dutch coach Ernie Brandts shepherded his side through a tense second leg in Kigali that saw the decisive goal by Burundi international Papy Faty near the hour mark. Cameroon representatives Astres Douala won their home match 2-1 over Diplomate FC from the Central African Republic, but they were left stunned at the final whistle after going out on away goals to the Bangui club, who won the first leg 1-0.

Smoother sailing
A first half header from forward Ahmed 'Mido' Hossam was enough for Zamalek to beat Young Africans 1-0, stamping their ticket to the next round after a 1-1 draw in the first leg. Mido is in the process of returning to fitness after featuring only a few times since coming back to the Whites at the beginning of the year, and his goal was one of the only bright spots for the Egyptians. Legendary Egyptian international Ahmed Hassan missed a penalty when he might have settled home nerves late on, and veteran coach Hassan Shehata was none too pleased with his side's performance. “The players underestimated the game and felt that they could win at any time,” said the former Egypt manager. “Young Africans might have scored several times because the players did not play with consistency.” Zamalek, anxious to add to their continental trophy cabinet after having gone a decade since last winning the tournament, will take on Ivorian side Africa Sports in the next round.

The champions from Ghana and Nigeria did not let down in their second leg contests after winning easily in the first. Dolphins of Port Harcourt posted their second consecutive 3-0 victory over CD Ela Nguema of Equatorial Guinea. Isiaka Olawale opened the scoring early before Ifeanyi Egwim tallied his second of the tie and Ghanaian striker Addae Owusu finished things out. Ghana's Berekum Chelsea got a brace from Emmanuel Clottey as they ran out 3-0 victors against LISCR of Liberia and took the tie 5-0 on aggregate. Both teams will face difficult obstacles in the next round as Dolphins take on Cameroon's Coton Sport and Chelsea will try to get past three-time African champions Raja Casablanca.

Also of note, both Algerian representatives were successful in the initial round after posting scoreless first legs. Champions ASO Chlef beat Burkina Faso's ASFA Yennenga 4-1 thanks to a hat-trick from Mohamed Seguer, and JSM Bejaia eased past Foullah FC of Chad 3-1 as Ernest Yelemou nabbed a brace. Ethiopian Coffee set up a fascinating pairing in the next round when they overcame a one goal deficit from their first leg against Coin Nord of Comoros to advance with a 4-2 aggregate scoreline. The east Africans will face Egyptian giants Al Ahly, which harks back to the 1998 event when the six-time African champions were knocked out of the competition by the underdogs on away goals.