African Leagues review
Ajax Cape Town and Mamelodi Sundowns were the weekend’s big winners in the South African premiership as fan favourites Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates both flopped. Prospective celebrations for Berekum Chelsea in Ghana had to also be put on hold while the race in Tunisia is also now a lot tighter. Egypt’s top of the table clash had expected fireworks but ended without much spice.
South Africa Premier League: The dream in sight
Ajax Cape Town had to come from behind to beat AmaZulu and reach a club record 59 points for the season, but it was only 24 hours later that their three-point lead at the head of the premier league was confirmed when Orlando Pirates lost at home for the first time in six months to outgoing champions SuperSport United, who beat them 1-0. Pirates stay on 56 points with two rounds to go while Mamelodi Sundowns are a further two points back, but with a game in hand, after they won a thriller in Pretoria over Kaizer Chiefs.
Big game: Sundowns and Chiefs exchanged third and fourth place in the standings after the 2-0 win for the hosts in front of some 43,000 spectators at Loftus Versfeld. Chiefs paid the price for missing a bevy of early chances and goals from Nyasha Mushekwi and Mozambican winger Dominguez ensured Sundowns’ hopes remain alive while Chiefs now only have a faint mathematical chance of a first championship since 2005.
Headline-grabbers: Morgan Gould was Player of the Season in South Africa last year but then hurt his ankle and missed the FIFA World Cup™. The SuperSport United centre back is now hoping to move to Europe at the end of this campaign and his headed goal from a first-half free-kick had his name in lights again as Pirates’ title hopes suffered a potentially fatal blow.
Ghana Premier League: Celebrations on hold
Berekum Chelsea could have been celebrating a first-ever championship success this weekend had permutations gone their way, but instead they will have to wait. Chelsea lost 1-0 away at King Faisal in Kumasi, while the match involving closest rivals Asante Kotoko was called off due to heavy rains.
Big game: If Chelsea had won at the Baba Yara Stadium and Kotoko lost it would have been the end of the championship chase, five rounds from the conclusion of the season. But Chelsea had to pack away the champagne after Abdul Wahab’s goal lifted King Faisal out of the relegation zone. Berekum have now lost their last four away games and will be looking forward to returning home on Sunday to meet Real Tamale United.
Headline-grabbers: Kotoko were keeping up their determined bid to stall the almost inevitable and leading before the tropical rains came pouring down, denying them victory away at Heart of Lions. The match, the third to be called off because of rain at Kpando Park this season, will be replayed on Tuesday.
Tunisia Ligue 1: Etoile Sahel strike back
Esperance have had their lead cut to two points after EGS Gafsa held them to a 0-0 draw in Tunis. Second place Etoile Sahel then took the advantage to cosy up to Esperance with a 3-2 away win the next day at Olympique Beja.
Big game: On the first weekend back after the long interruption of the league, Etoile had slipped up at home and allowed perennial rivals Esperance to go four points clear. But they got a chance to get right back into contention after Esperance’s home draw and went away to the north to beat Beja with a late penalty from Brazilian import Danilo Bueno.
Headline-grabbers: Chad international striker Ezechiel Ndouassel signed a four year contract with Club Africain in January but then almost straight away saw the league suspended because of the country’s ‘Jasmine Revolution.' But he got a chance to prove his worth at the weekend as his side travelled to ES Hammam-Sousse and won 4-1 with Ndouassel scoring the first two.
Egypt Premier League: No goals at the top
No goals in the top of the table clash means Zamalek stay five points clear of Ismaily, but hopes of moving further away from defending champions Al Ahly failed to materialise. Ahly, who have won the league for the last six seasons, were also held to a 0-0 draw away at Al Masry in Port Said.
Big game: Matches in Ismaily are usually feisty affairs and there was trepidation about the visit of Zamalek, but the match ended without drama. Zamalek go to 40 points, five ahead of their opponents and seven ahead of Al Ahly, who have a game in hand. Abdelwahed El Sayed had to make some top saves near the end to keep Zamalek’s goal intact and Hosni Abd Rabou’s free-kick had to be scrambled off the line by Zamalek’s Hani Said in the last minutes.
Headline-grabbers: Al Ahly’s hopes of closing the gap on Zamalek ran a gauntlet at Al Masry at the weekend and provided proof of a striking crisis at the club. Mohamed Fadl is out for up to six weeks with a calf injury and the veteran midfield pair of Mohamed Barakat and Mohamed Aboutrika now join him on the sidelines after knocks picked up in Port Said.
African champions TP Mazembe were held to a 1-1 draw at home in Lubumbashi by AS V Club of Kinshasa in the traditional derby between the top clubs of the two biggest cities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Raja Casablanca consolidated their role as leader of Morocco’s Botola with a 4-1 win over rivals OC Safi.
Al Hilal warmed up for a difficult CAF Champions League assignment this weekend by beating Al Nsor 5-0 away in the Sudanese league.