Zamalek, Mazembe stumble
© AFP

Egyptian giants Zamalek were one of several North African favourites who struggled in the first leg of the final round of qualifying ahead of the CAF Champions League group phase. The five-time champions conceded their first goal of the tournament as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Ethiopia's Saint George. Four-time champions TP Mazembe fell at Orlando Pirates, Algerian club ES Setif lost 3-1 at AC Leopards and Al Ahly, Esperance and FUS Rabat were all held to draws. The winners of the eight ties advance to the group phase, while the losers qualify for the Confederation Cup play-off round. The winner of the CAF Champions League represents the continent at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco at the end of the year.

Game of the week
Zamalek 1-1 Saint George
Saint George have taken a major step towards becoming the first Ethiopian club to advance to the lucrative group stage of the competition with their well-earned away draw at the Cairo club, who were playing behind closed doors. Oumed Oukri gave the visitors the shock lead in the 67th minute after intercepting a Salah Soliman pass played across the Egyptian half. The Ethiopian international striker ran about 20 metres with the ball before unleashing a powerful shot from well outside the area, giving goalkeeper Abdul-Wahed Al-Sayed no chance. Zamalek then brought on Mohamed Ibrahim and Abdoulaye Cisse and the two combined seven minutes from the end with Cisse bundling a late equaliser over the line for his side. The Burkina Faso forward came close to scoring a dramatic winner, but saw his header came back off the crossbar.

The surprise
Enugu Rangers 0-0 Recreativo do Libolo
Nigeria have been omnipresent in the group stage of the Champions League since 2007 and in all but one of those five years they have managed to get a team into the semi-finals. That run could come to an end this time around as the 2012 Nigeria Premier League runner-up Enugu Rangers were held to a goalless draw at home by Angolan representatives Recreativo do Libolo. The home side had finalised the transfer of Chigozie Agbim just a few days before the match and the Nigerian international goalkeeper was given a place in the starting line-up and the captain's armband. But it was his Angolan counterpart Landu Mavanga who grabbed most of the headlines with a number of breathtaking saves on shots from Sanusi Sani and Alhaji Gero. As time wore on, Rangers' coach Okey Emordi brought on three new offensive players and substitute Rasaq Adegbite came close to giving his side the all-important goal, but was also denied by Landu.

Other matches
Defending champions Al Ahly secured a valuable draw away from home as they held Tunisian club CA Bizertin to a scoreless 90 minutes. Goalkeeper Sherif Ekrami denied Marouen Troudi and Mohamed Ali Mhadhebi. Larbi Jabeur had the ball in the back of net in the dying minutes, but the referee ruled that Ekrami had been fouled. In Morocco, Kevin Zougoula scored a late 1-1 equaliser for Sewe Sport against FUS Rabat to give the Côte d'Ivoire side the advantage ahead of the home leg. 2008 finalists Coton Sport took a major step towards the group phase with a convincing 3-0 win against Stade Malien, while Congolese club AC Leopards grabbed an injury time goal against ES Setif for a 3-1 win. 

Player of the week
Striker Collins Mbesuma returned to South Africa in 2008 after a three-year stint in Europe, playing in England, Portugal and Turkey. He joined Mamelodi Sundowns, then moved to Moroka Swallows and from there to Golden Arrows, before joining Orlando Pirates last year. The Zambian international was the match winner for his side against continental giants TP Mazembe when he finished in the 57th minute and converted an injury-time penalty to give the South Africans a 3-1 win against the four-time champions. 

The stat
6 –
The number of years Orlando Pirates' fans have had to wait to see their team in the group stage of the Champions League. The Buccaneers, who won the competition in 1995, are well-placed to advance to the last eight after their first-leg triumph in Johannesburg. 

What they said
"The players have not fallen, they did everything they could. There is still a match in Tunis, and I think we are able to repeat what we did in the last round in Kumasi," said JSM Bejaia coach Giovanni Solinas, whose side played to a goalless draw at home against Esperance de Tunis. They drew 0-0 against Asante Kotoko in the last round, but advanced after securing a 1-1 draw in the return leg. 

Have your say
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