African Leagues review
Al Hilal are the champions again in Sudan after a dramatic last-day decider while a first defeat of the season has cost the coach of Al Ahly in Egypt his job. Esperance stay top of the league in Tunis after derby action while Nigeria’s new season is just three rounds old but there is no club left with a perfect record. FIFA.com rounds up the weekend action in some of Africa’s top leagues.
Egypt: Daylight at the top
Zamalek’s lead in the Egyptian League was stretched to six points as they finally put some daylight between themselves and arch rivals Al Ahly, who have greatly overshadowed them in recent years by winning six successive titles. Zamalek, seeking a first league championship since 2004, needed a goal from teenager Mohamed Ibrahim in stoppage time at the end of their match against Al Masry, where coach Hossam Hassan was up against one of his formers clubs, to claim a fraught 1-0 victory. Ahly lost 3-1 at Ismaily, who are seventh in the standings but just two points from second place, so tight is the front-running packing. Ahly have two games in hand on Zamalek, so in theory a chance to make up those six points.
Big game: Ismaily took just over half an hour to effectively end Al Ahly’s unbeaten run in the league with a trio of goals. Shady Mohamed, who had captained Ahly when they last won the CAF Champions League, opened the scoring after ten minutes before Abdallah Shahat doubled the lead. Nigerian import Ndubuisi Eze outran veteran Wael Goma before pushing the ball past the goalkeeper for a third, reversing the disappointment of Ismaily’s defeat in their last league match at Zamalek.
Headline-grabbers: Al Ahly coach Hossam Al Badri quit on Monday after the loss to Ismaily, his tenure lasting 18 months and including success in last season’s championship as well as a place in the cup final. But Al Badri was heckled by supporters as his side lost away at the weekend despite the fact that it was their first defeat of the campaign. Impatience had been growing since Al Ahly’s semi-final loss in the African Champions League in October to Esperance.
Nigeria: Early front runners
Five sides remain unbeaten after the opening three rounds of the new Premier League season, with two of them, Shooting Stars and Gombe United, sharing top spot on seven points. Kaduna United, Sharks and JUTH are the other three without a loss to their name, but no side managed to win their first three matches.
Big game: Raheem Owolabi and Chima Akas scored on either side of the break to ensure Shooting Stars’ top place with a 2-0 win over Bukola Babes. Stars, twice runners-up in the CAF Champions League, remain one of Nigeria’s most popular sides, but it is now 12 years since they last won the domestic title, and they have suffered the ignominy of relegation and promotion again since their last championship.
Headline-grabbers: The Port Harcourt derby turned into a pedestrian affair with the zoological pair of Dolphin and Sharks lethargically going through their paces to the fury of the watching public and the country’s footballing scribes. Victor Ezeji’s goal settled the first of this season’s derby matches in favour of Sharks, but it was not a display that will be remembered with much fondness or promise for the season ahead.
Tunisia: Back to business
There was no let up for Esperance a week after the disappointing end of their Champions League campaign as they were thrust into the Tunis derby with Club Africain. The 2-2 draw was only the second time Esperance had dropped points this season, but it still sees them one point ahead of Etoile Sahel, plus Esperance have a game in hand to be played on Wednesday.
Big game: A crowd of some 45,000 turned out at the November 7 Stadium to watch Club Africain and Esperance contrive to produce a thrilling ending to their derby. Karim Aouadhi seemed to have settled the affair in Club Africain’s favour five minutes from time as they went 2-1 up, but Esperance got a share of the spoils with Walid Hichri equalising in the last minute against his old side.
Headline-grabbers: Tunisia has had a steady stream of Brazilian imports, three of whom have gone on to claim citizenship and play for the North African country’s national team. The latest import to make an impact is supremely skilful midfielder Danilo Bueno, who arrives in the middle of a journeyman's career from Bragantino in his native country. The 27-year-old got both goals for Etoile Sahel as they won 2-0 away at ES Hammam-Sousse.
Sudan: Derby decision day
Al Hilal scored 12 minutes from time to win the championship from their arch rivals Al Merreikh, as the season concluded belatedly with the Omdurman derby proving the deciding match. Already one of Africa’s fiercest rivalries, Al Hilal and Al Merreikh were level on 67 points each going into their final game of the season, which had been held over by several weeks because of Hilal’s progress to the semi-final of the African Confederation Cup.
Big game: Merreikh were first to score at the Al Hilal Stadium through Said Mustafa Balla but the lead lasted but three minutes and a second goal for Mohamed Ahmed Bisha had Hilal ahead soon after the break. Lassane Fane equalised in the 69th minute but the final word went to his Malian compatriot Demba Barry, formerly of JS Kabylie in Algeria, who secured the title with the last goal of a 3-2 win.
Headline grabbers: Al Hilal have now won seven of the last eight premier league titles in Sudan, with Al Merreikh breaking that sequence in 2008. The next closest side to the pair at the end of this season were Khartoum, a full 30 points off the pace.
With two rounds left in the Barclays League in Mauritius, Pamplemousses SC have secured the title, 11 points ahead of AS Port Louis 2000. It is triumph for young coach Henri Speville, until two years ago was still captain of the island nation’s national team.
Namibia’s derby encounter produced just a single goal in Windhoek with Orlando Pirates beating Black Africa to move fourth in the standings just two points behind their neighbours, who are third in the Namibia Premier League. The goal came via a goalmouth scramble just before the break by Engelhard Kahua.