African Leagues review
Nigeria’s top flight is beginning to find some shape as it approaches the midway mark while the tension is near boiling level in South Africa with a dramatic finish in the offing as the campaign comes to a close. Algeria resumed their championship, while a new champion was crowned in Malawi.
Nigeria: Leaders keep the pace
Eight wins from nine matches has propelled Dolphin FC towards the Premier League title, although the impressive run of form has not been able to shrug off the chasing pack. Sunshine Stars remain four points behind in second place, having beaten last season’s runners-up Kano Pillars 3-0. However, there is a seven-point gap between the leaders and third-place Warri Wolves.
Big game: Bukola Babes have made a positive impression as newcomers to the top division and were hopeful of extending an eight game unbeaten run away at the leaders. Instead they got a cold bite of reality, conceding after just three minutes and going on to lose 2-0. Dolphin’s goals came from Derek Amadi and a 65th-minute penalty from Uche Oguchi. “We are making a bold statement. We are a serious side with serious aspirations,” said Dolphin’s coach Stanley Eguma after the win.
Headline-grabbers: Ibrahim Ajani has little of the imposing presence of a typical No9 but despite his diminutive stature is regularly finding the back of the net. An early strike for Sunshine Stars in their home game against Kano Pillars increased his tally to eight for the season and kept him firmly on top of the goal-scoring charts, a position he has said he intends to keep until the end of the season.
South Africa: Top sides falter
A dramatic stoppage-time equaliser saved leaders Orlando Pirates from rare defeat at home to AmaZulu. Two of their major rivals for the title also faltered, with Kaizer Chiefs held to a 2-2 draw by Santos in Cape Town and Mamelodi Sundowns losing to Free State Stars. Of the four teams in with a chance of glory this season, only Ajax Cape Town were successful in their derby against Vasco da Gama.
Big game: Kaizer Chiefs were looking for as fifth successive win, and a boost to morale before next Saturday’s derby against Pirates, but they found the windy conditions against Santos hard to contend with. Twice they had to come from behind to gain a point and there was a clear sense of relief on the face of coach Vladimir Vermezovic when the final whistle went to call time on a difficult trip.
Headline-grabbers: Happy Jele’s first-ever league goal came as he approached his 100th game for Orlando Pirates, but the right-back certainly has a penchant for dramatic timing. Pirates were hoping for a seventh successive win and dominated without making much headway in front of goal. Then, with three minutes left, they found themselves a goal down only for Jele to scramble home an equaliser just seconds before the final whistle.
Algeria: Catch up time
The planned resumption of the season proved muted as half the fixtures were postponed because of Algeria's participation at the African Nations Championship in Sudan, where they have reached the semi-finals. MC Saida used the opportunity to move third and cut the lead of table-toppers ASO Chlef to three points. Dropping to fourth were USM Harrach, who contested a six-goal thriller at home with MC Oran.
Big game: MC Saida had a game in hand, so their 3-0 win over second-from-bottom AS Khroub proved significant and gave some more clarity to the a chase in which they are led by both Chlef and ES Setif. Yassine Akkouche, Laid Madouni and Mohamed Saadi all scored to maintain Saida’s unbeaten home record, which is six wins and two draws from eight matches.
Headline-grabbers: Sofiane Younes scored the winning goal in a 3-2 triumph as JS Kabylie were forced to come from behind to win at home against MC El Eulma. A recent crisis of confidence in the ranks of the former African champions is reflected in their form this season and in the way in which they battled to scrape through what ordinarily would have been a routine assignment.
Morocco: Two at the top
Raja Casablanca got a late goal to salvage a point at FUS Rabat but slipped from their perch at the top of the table. Raja moved to 32 points but OC Safi and MAS Fez now have the leadership to themselves on 34, after they both won 1-0 at the weekend. Safi won at MA Tetouan while Fez claimed victory at home to JS Massira.
Big game: FUS Rabat are back into a routine after their heroics in the African Confederation Cup late last year, plus recent participation in the Africa Super Cup, and are looking stronger for those experiences. Hicham El Fathi put them ahead in the 63rd minute at home to Raja, but Yassine Salhi equalised with just three minutes left to play.
Headline-grabbers: Hamza Abourazzouk emerged as the Fez hero after claiming the winner six minutes from time at home to Massira. The hosts eked out a win despite playing for almost an hour of the game with just ten men after Idriss Belamri was sent off in the first half.
Escom United were crowned Malawi Super League champions after a 2-1 win over Moyale Barracks ensured their first title since 2007.
Tunisia’s sports minister has announced the league will resume next weekend after the recent civil unrest.
Leaders US Ouakam remained unbeaten in Senegal’s Ligue 1 but were held to a 0-0 draw in Dakar by Yakaar.