Having dominated the CAF Champions League for the last three years, teams from North Africa found the going much tougher this time around as four from seven crashed out in the second qualifying round for the lucrative group stage of the continent's showpiece club event. It could easily have been just two teams though as five-time champions Zamalek needed a last-gasp goal to stay alive.
The eight remaining teams will be drawn into two groups of four each, with the top two clubs in each group at the end of the home-and-away round-robin tournament qualifying for the semi-finals. The winner of the Champions League will represent the continent at the FIFA Club World Cup at the end of the year in Morocco.
Game of the week
Recreativo Libolo 3-1 Enugu Rangers
For the first time since 2007, Nigeria will not be represented in the group stage of the Champions League after Enugu Rangers lost their return leg in Angola against Recreativo Libolo 3-1. After the goalless draw in Enugu it was always going to be a hard ask for the Nigerians to come away from Angola with a result. They did, however, go into the game on a positive note after Super Eagles' striker Sunday Mba was cleared to play for them in the return leg, and it was CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2013 hero Mba who scored their goal. Mba though, found the net when they were already behind after Henry Camara and Dario had given the hosts a two-goal lead. Mba's goal from a well-taken left-footed shot in the 57th minute gave Rangers some hope, but Dario's penalty 15 minutes later, awarded after Chibuzor Madu brought down Vado in the area, put the game beyond the visitors.
ES Setif 3-1 AC Leopards (4-5 pen)
AC Leopards, who last season caused a major upset by winning the CAF Confederation Cup after beating Mali's Djoliba in the two-legged final, caused another continental shock as they became the first club from Congo to advance to the group phase of the Champions League. The Dolisie-based club beat ES Setif 3-1 in the Congo in the first leg, and went ahead in Setif through Rudy Ndey's goal early on. Akram Djahnit levelled matters just seven minutes later and Mourad Delhoum put the home side ahead six minutes before the break. The game was a one-sided affair in the second half as Setif poured forward in search of a third goal, but the Black Eagle's fans had to endure until deep into injury time before Delhoum sent the match into extra time. As neither side managed to find another goal, the tie had to be decided in a penalty shoot-out. All five Leopards' players - including goalkeeper Laurens N'Gom - managed to score, while Rachid Ferrahi missed for the home side, allowing AC Leopards to make history by advancing to the group phase.
Ethiopian club Saint George came agonizingly close to causing a huge upset as they were leading Zamalek 2-1 with just three minutes to go, but Abdoulaye Cisse then found a late equaliser to see the Egyptian club through on the away goals rule. The White Knights are not the only Egyptian club to advance as Al Ahly beat Tunisian club CA Bizertin 2-1 to go through 2-1 on aggregate. Mohamed Barakat and Emad Moteab scored the goals for the defending champions. There was some consolation though for Tunisia as last season's losing finalists Esperance beat Algerian club JSM Bejaia 1-0 for a 1-0 aggregate win. Also through to the group phase are Sewe Sports, who advanced on away goals after a goalless draw at home against Moroccan club FUS Rabat, and Coton Sport. The Cameroonian club drew 0-0 at Stade Malien after their 3-0 win at home.
Player of the week
Having drawn 1-1 against Ethiopian club Saint George in Egypt, Zamalek knew they had a fight on their hand if they wanted to remain in the competition. Former Montpellier striker Abdoulaye Cisse gave them an early lead in the return leg. After the home side turned things around to lead 2-1, Zamalek was staring elimination in the face and it was again the Burkina Faso international who came to the rescue with a late equaliser that saw Zamalek advance on the away goals rule. It was the Côte d'Ivoire-born striker's sixth goal in the competition.
3 – The number of North African teams remaining in the competition after four other clubs from the region were knocked out in the second round of qualifying (two of them in North African derbies). The last time North Africa had less than five representatives in the group phase was in 2009.
What they said
“It was tough, but at half time we said we were going to fight for the pride of our nation. And we did just that,” Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa, who saved two penalties during the game to see his side through against four-time champions TP Mazembe 3-2 on aggregate.
Have your say
Can Al Ahly go on to successfully defend their Champions League title?