North Africa dominates as group stage beckons
© AFP

North African clubs were the big winners in the return leg of the first round of qualifying in the CAF Champions League, with seven teams from the region advancing to the last 16 of the competition. As four of the clubs have been drawn against each other, a total of five clubs could remain in the competition once the group stage gets underway later in July. The winner of the event will represent the continent at the FIFA World Club Cup in Morocco at the end of the year.

Game of the week
Enugu Rangers 2-0 Vital'O
Making only their second appearance in the Champions League, Nigeria’s Enugu Rangers advanced to the second round for the first time in their history with a 2-0 second leg and aggregate win against Vital'O. Rangers coach Okey Emordi had to take off two injured defenders late during the game and could not replace them as he had already made his three substitutions, but they had enough of a cushion from early goals by Uche Oguchi and Efe Yarhere. The home side should have been further ahead in the second-half, but Sanusi Sani hit the crossbar and Alhaji Gero saw his shot well saved by the visiting goalkeeper. The visitors were thrown a life-line in second-half injury time when Yarhere brought down a Vital'O player in the box, but Ranger's goalkeeper Godwin Ayalogu pulled off a fine save from Steve Nzigamasabo to deny the club from Burundi a consolation goal.

The surprise
AC Leopards 3-0 Kano Pillars
After winning the home leg 4-1 against Congolese club AC Leopards, Nigerian champions Kano Pillars were expected to get the job done in the return leg and advance to the final qualifying round of the competition. However, it was not to be as the home side scored in the first half to play themselves back into contention. Two second-half goals - the last an injury-time penalty - saw Leopards advance on the away goal rule after the tie ended 4-4 on aggregate. The result also denies Nigeria an opportunity to have both their Champions League entrants qualify for the lucrative group stage of the competition for the first time since 2009.

Other matches
Egyptian giants Al Ahly, secured a 2-0 win against Tusker for a 4-1 aggregate victory, with Emad Meteab scoring the second goal to take his tally from the tie to three. The defending champions will be joined in the second round by compatriots Zamalek, who played to a goalless draw in Kinshasa against AS Vita Club for a 1-0 aggregate victory. Algeria also have two representatives in the next round as JSM Bejaia surprised Asante Kotoko 1-1 in Kumasi and went through on the away goal rule after a scoreless first leg, while ES Setif beat ASFA Yennenga from Burkina Faso 4-2 for a 5-3 aggregate victory. The only other country with two clubs in the final round of qualifying is Tunisia after Khalil Chammam gave Esperance a 1-0 victory against Primeiro de Agosto, and CA Bizertin advanced 3-1 on aggregate despite losing 1-0 in Zimbabwe against Dynamos. The final North African team in the second round is Moroccan club FUS Rabat, who also lost 1-0 in Cameroon against Union Douala, but went through 3-1 on aggregate.

Ethiopian club Saint George held Djoliba to a 1-1 draw and went through 3-1 on aggregate, while former champions TP Mazembe recorded the biggest win of the round beating Mochudi Centre Chiefs 6-0, with Tresor Mabi Mputu scoring twice. Angola’s Recreativo do Libolo repeated their 2-1 first leg victory against Al-Merrikh in Sudan. Cameroon's Coton Sport, who were runners up in 2008, managed a 2-1 victory against AFAD Djekanou to advance, while Stade Malien also won their second match of the round against Casa Sport 2-0 for a 4-1 aggregate victory.

Player of the week
Côte d'Ivoire club Sewe Sport thought they had done most of the hard work done in their opening game against Sudanese club Al Hilal after a 4-1 victory. But the return leg in Omdurman turned out to be anything but easy, as Mohamed Tahir, Ahmed El Basha and Mohamed Traore gave Al Hilal a 3-0 lead, which would have been enough to go through to the next round on the away goal rule. However, there was last drama as Kako Rostan scored a goal for his side deep into injury time to put the visitors through 5-4 on aggregate. Judging by the young Cameroon striker's performance against Al Hilal, more will be heard of him during the season.

The stat
16 – The number of clubs still involved in the Champions League. They will face each other in eight ties beginning in a fortnight, with the winner from each advancing to the group stage.

What they said
“Our away goal was very crucial, but we wanted to forget it going into the match. We got a scare when they got that goal but after that we controlled the game like we did in the first leg in Zambia,” Orlando Pirates coach Roger De Sa,  after his side beat Zambian club Zanaco 2-1 for a 3-1 aggregate victory.

Have your say
Can Algerian club JSM Bejaia stun two-time champions Esperance for a first-ever place in the group phase of the Champions League?