African Confederation Cup title holders Sfaxien of Tunisia staged a brave comeback to force a 2-2 draw at Platinum Stars of South Africa Sunday. The North Africans punished sloppy defending by Platinum to score twice in the second half after the South Africans had built a 2-0 half-time lead on a freezing afternoon in the northern town of Rustenburg.
Sfaxien are favoured to win the return match in two weeks and advance to the group phase of a competition modelled on Europe's UEFA Cup and offering a 330,000 dollar first prize.
A 5,000 crowd at Olympia Park saw Simba Marumo tap the ball into the net on 12 minutes in the fourth round clash and Dingaan Masanabo put Stars further ahead just before half-time with a low shot.
But Platinum failed to consolidate their advantage after the break and Ghanaian Opoku Agyemang reduced the arrears after 53 minutes by volleying a poor clearance past goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini. Zimbabwean Kapini was to blame for the 73rd-minute equaliser as he failed to grasp a cross and Chaker Bargaoui pounced on the loose ball and struck it into the net.
African debutants Platinum dropped down to the Confederation Cup after losing narrowly to Egyptian giants Al-Ahly in the final round of CAF Champions League qualifiers two months ago.
Sfaxien have made sluggish progress in the Confederation Cup qualifiers after receiving a first round bye, edging JSM Bejaia of Algeria and needing the away goal rule to oust Linguere of Senegal.
Vengeance for Etoile
Former Confederation Cup title holders Etoile Sahel exacted swift revenge over Esperance by winning the all-Tunisian showdown 2-0 in the Mediterranean resort of Sousse. Esperance defeated arch rivals Etoile 2-1 last weekend to lift the Tunisian Cup in Tunis, but came unstuck at the Olympic Stadium where the 'Red Devils' have lost just once in numerous African campaigns.
Highly rated young striker Amine Chermiti gave Etoile an early lead and Benin midfielder Muri Ogunbiyi added the second five minutes after half-time before a large crowd. Defender Younis al-Shibani headed the winner two minutes from full-time as Al-Ittihad of Libya came from behind to pip 10-man Asante Kotoko of Ghana 2-1 in a Tripoli thriller.
Striker Kwabena Yaro gave the new Ghanaian champions an 11th-minute lead they lost early in the second half when Godfred Yeboah handled and prolific scorer Salem Rewani converted the spot kick.
Kotoko, runners-up to compatriots Hearts of Oak in the first Confederation Cup four years ago, put themselves under pressure soon after when a second caution led to the dismissal of captain Emmanuel Osei Kuffour.
Modest Cameroon clubs fared satisfactorily with Astres Douala forcing a 1-1 draw at former African champions JS Kabylie of Algeria while Mount Cameroon will fancy their chances despite a 2-1 loss at Angolan police team InterClube.