Nigerian clubs fight for Champions League survival

Nigerian challengers Dolphin and Sunshine Stars must fight for survival this weekend when return games are played in the first round of the CAF Champions League.

Dolphin take a precarious 2-1 lead over 2008 runners-up Cotonsport Garoua to Cameroon while Sunshine must overcome a 4-1 first-leg drubbing when they host Recreativo do Libolo from Angola.

While Enyimba are the only Nigerian side to win the elite CAF club competition, it would be humiliating for the African football power if both clubs failed to make the last 16 final qualifying round.

Both Nigerian coaches remain upbeat as they try to undo the damage of two weeks ago when Dolphin missed a penalty and many chances and Sunshine lost concentration in the closing stages to concede three goals.

"My boys may not have achieved the emphatic victory we hoped for, but I still believe in them and I am confident of a good result in the return match," Dolphin handler Stanley Eguma said.

Sunshine Stars boss Olubenga Ogumbota was emphatic: "My players are capable of overcoming the deficit - uncomfortably large though it is. I do not believe anything is lost."

It could have been even worse for Port Harcourt-based Dolphin as the winning goal from Ghana-born Owusu Addae came just three minutes from time after Ifeanyi Egwim had given his team an early lead and fluffed a second-half spot kick.

Dolphin came closest to African glory in 2005 when beaten by FAR Rabat of Morocco in the CAF Confederation Cup final while Cotonsport lost 4-2 on aggregate against Al Ahly of Egypt in the Champions League decider four years ago.

Sunshine exceeded expectations to reach the Confederation Cup semi-finals at the first attempt last year and seemed a good bet to reach the group phase of the Champions League at least.

However, two goals within three minutes from Adawa and Dario turned the tide in favour of provincial outfit Recreativo and Cameroon-born Edy struck a potentially crucial fourth in stoppage time.

"We are going to Nigeria with just one thought - victory," stressed Libolo coach and former national team star Zeca Amaral, whose team stunned former champions Orlando Pirates of South Africa in a preliminary tie.

Ahly strive for more
Although Al Ahly have been African champions a record six times and held Coffee 0-0 in Ethiopia two weeks ago, the talented but ageing squad of Portuguese coach Manuel Jose will take nothing for granted.

Coffee were also held at home by Ahly in a previous first round clash 14 years ago only to win the tie on away goals and the Cairo Red Devils have been hampered by a lack of match practice.

The arch rivals of Ahly take a 1-0 lead over Africa Sports to Abidjan and will miss injured striker Ahmed 'Mido' Hossam in a repeat of the 1986 CAF Champions Cup final won by the Cairo club on penalties.

Title holders Esperance of Tunisia should advance to the final qualifying round without undue difficulty having drawn 1-1 with African debutants Brikama United in Gambia.

Other former champions in action are Vita Club and TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Etoile Sahel of Tunisia, who all drew away, and Raja Casablanca of Morocco, trounced 5-0 by newcomers Berekum Chelsea in Ghana.