African Leagues review
Top teams stepped into the cauldron of continental competition at the weekend at the start of the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup campaigns, but leagues went on across Africa. Orlando Pirates now lead in South Africa, while Dolphin FC have had their advantage in Nigeria cut substantially.
South Africa: Pirate flag flying high
The Premier League leadership changed hands twice at the weekend, first after Ajax Cape Town forced a gritty win over relegation-threatened Moroka Swallows, and then some 18 hours later when Orlando Pirates regained top place by beating Free State Stars away. It ensured they lead by two points over arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs and Ajax.
Big game: Pirates extended their unbeaten away record to eight games in Bloemfontein against Stars, their 2-0 triumph sparked by a wonder goal from winger Tlou Segolela. He dribbled past five defenders and the goalkeeper after picking up the ball inside his own half, setting off at break-neck speed and scrambling home a shot. It is a strong contender for the cash prize given to the league’s goal of the season.
Headline-grabbers: Mamelodi Sundowns had a chance at the start of the year to go seven points clear at the top of the table but now find themselves fourth, three points behind the leaders. Just one win in their last six matches has meant growing problems for the club’s Spanish coach Antonio Lopez. The team did buy Bafana Bafana midfielder Teko Modise last week, but Lopez did not use him on Sunday as Sundowns were held 1-1 at home by Platinum Stars.
Libya: The gap begins to open
As Al Ittihad have steadily made up matches delayed because of last season’s Champions League, they have just as steadily caught up with all the clubs positioned above them in the standings. And last week, Al Ittihad went top and now they are beginning to open up a gap over the rest.
Big game: It took 40 minutes to get going but after that there was never any doubt Al Ittihad were on their way to a seventh successive win and a four-point lead, plus still with a game in hand. Skipper Younes Shibani netted for a second successive game to open the scoring in the 3-0 triumph over bottom placed Al Najma, and Ahmed Al Zawi and Riad Ellafi added two more in the second half.
Headline-grabbers: Khalid Mohamed’s two goals for Al Olympique ensured a 3-3 draw and severely dented the title hopes of Al Ahli Tripoli, who drop further off the pace, now five points behind. Al Ahli Benghazi stayed in touch, however, by winning 2-1 over sixth-placed Al Tirsana, although it took two penalties from Moataz Ben Amer to make sure of the points.
Nigeria: Winning run at an end
After five successive wins, Dolphin FC suffered a fourth defeat of the campaign in going down 2-0 to lowly Ocean Boys. It meant that the four-point gap that they had opened up last week was reduced right back down to a single point by Sunshine Stars. Bukola Babes remain third, four points off the pace.
Big game: Felix Benjamin’s long-range effort after just 15 minutes ensured a profitable start for Ocean Boys and a second goal from Michael Andrew just before half-time provided a decent cushion for the Yenagoa-based side. Indeed there would have been more goals for the hosts in the second half were it not for some wasteful finishing by the youthful Andrew.
Headline-grabbers: There was no crowd to roar them as they played behind closed doors at the Gateway International Stadium in Ijebu-Ode but Sunshine Stars still had the wind in their sails in beating Lobi Stars 2-0. Ibrahim Ajani was the hero with a goal in either half, and he also forced a penalty after being tripped in the box but saw team-mate Ukeyima Akombo miss the chance.
Cameroon: Mice play as cat goes away
League leaders and defending champions Cotonsport Garoua were away for Champions League action but will return home this week to find their lead at the top still substantive. Second-placed Unisport Bafang did cut it by three points but third Canon Yaounde drew, thereby squandering a chance to also stay in touch.
Big game: Unisport traveled from the west province to Douala and quickly asserted themselves with a Valentin Biloa goal after just six minutes. Caiman, who are near the foot of the table, equalised through Didier Yimga soon after, but Biloa popped up for a second goal on the half-hour mark, and it stayed 2-1 at the end.
Headline grabbers: With veteran World Cup campaigner Geremi Njitap training back home with Renaissance Ngoumou, there was an added edge to the derby with Canon Yaounde, even if the fullback did not play. Frederick Nguidjol, previously with champions Cotonsport, equalised for Canon after Renaissance had taken a 20th-minute lead.
Egypt canceled all Premier League games at the weekend as a result of street protests and general civil unrest around the country.
Champions Silver Strikers have a five-point gap over Escom United at the top of Malawi Super League but have played three matches more after a 2-1 win over Big Bullets at the weekend.
ASGNN won 2-0 at the weekend over Urana FC to usurp Akokana FC at the head of Niger’s Ligue 1.