Ahly cruising, Chlef win first crown
ASO Chlef celebrated a first ever league championship in Algeria in the best possible fashion at the weekend, with an emphatic win. That leaves the spotlight on two other North African countries where the title races are reaching potentially dramatic finales as Al Ahly and Esperance hold off close rivals at the top in Egypt and Tunisia. Coton Sport of Cameroon, meanwhile, continued their irrepressible home form as they marched to within one match of taking the title once again.
Algeria Premier Division: A stylish celebration
ASO Chlef were crowned champions for the first time early last week without kicking a ball after their closest challengers, Chabab Belouizdad, failed to keep pace. To celebrate, the rookie champions went on a goal spree at the weekend with a resounding 4-0 win over USM Annaba, their 18th league win of the season. Now the focus turns to the fight for the runners-up spot and a berth in next season’s CAF Champions League.
Big game: Although ASO Chlef will only formally receive their trophy when they host USM Alger next, there was plenty of celebrating during the win over USMA and afterwards in the northern provincial city. They settled nerves immediately with two goals in the first 10 minutes against USMA, who continue to face the prospect of relegation.
Headline-grabbers: Chabab Belouizdad, Entente Setif and USM El Harrach all retain high hopes of finishing second, but between them they collected a solitary point at the weekend. Setif lost 3-1 at bottom-placed CA Bordj Bou Arreridj while Mouloudia Alger beat El Harrach. Belouizdad drew at home with USM Alger and have a two-point lead over the others.
Cameroon Elite One: A busy perch at the top
A five-goal haul at the weekend has moved Coton Sport to within a single win of their eighth championship in nine years. The Garoua-based side beat near-neighbours Scorpion de Bey 5-2 and are now within two points of securing the title for the 11th time, which would beat the long-standing record of Canon Yaounde.
Big game: Coton Sport hit the 50-point mark for the season and stretched to six months their unbeaten run in the league. They also maintained their formidable home record where they have won 11 of 12 games, drawing the other. Bey’s first visit to Garoua marked their eighth loss of the season and sees them just two points above the relegation zone in their first season in the top flight.
Headline-grabbers: Tiko United were champions just two years ago but this season have battled against relegation. Their prospects of avoiding the drop were given a major boost with a 4-0 win over high flying Unisport Bafana as the Samba Boys moved up to eighth. Tiko are not safe yet but there are now four clubs behind them in the race to avoid the final relegation spot.
Tunisia Ligue 1: Esperance stay ahead
Esperance maintained their two-point lead over arch-rivals Etoile Sahel as the league programme enters its final stages. Delayed earlier this year because of the country’s ‘velvet revolution’, clubs now find themselves in a hectic race to finish the campaign. Esperance are aiming to win a third successive title and take their tally to 11 out of the last 14 championships.
Big game: Esperance got off to a dream start in the 212th derby, scoring after just 12 seconds through Oussama Darragi. But Club Africain, with former Esperance coach Faouzi Benzarti in charge, fought their way back after being stunned at the start and equalised from the penalty spot through French-born defender Wissem Ben Yahia. The winner for the champions came in the 71st minute from Youssef Msakni, although the dismissal of Khaled Korbi meant they had to hold on for the final 10 minutes down to 10 men.
Headline-grabbers: Although the Ligue 1 season still has four rounds remaining, the fight for promotion from Ligue 2 is complete. US Monastir had already secured their place, but the weekend saw ES Beni Khalled earn a return to the top flight after a four-year absence with a draw against Jendouba Sports.
Egypt Premier League: The fight looks over
Zamalek have led the title race all season but they have been steadily reined in over recent weeks by Al Ahly. Now the swing is complete, with Ahly boasting a five-point lead after beating third-placed Ismaily 2-1, while Zamalek went down to Al Masry. Ahly, unbeaten since the return of coach Manuel Jose to the helm, are now on course to win the title for a seventh successive season and next meet Zamalek in a much-anticipated derby on Wednesday.
Big game: Veteran Mohamed Barakat’s hunger for success remains intact as he opened the scoring in the vital game against Ismaily. Al Ahly’s injury-plagued midfielder often pops up at the right time to make a telling contribution, and he grabbed his side a first half lead by chipping the opposing goalkeeper. Mohamed Nagui claimed the second-half winner in a vital victory for the defending champions.
Headline-grabbers: Zamalek supporters will not forget the name of Mali import Issiaka Eliassou, whose two headed goals for Al Masry ensured a 2-0 win over the Cairo giants and has likely condemned them to yet another season in the shadow of their arch-rivals. Central defender Eliassou moved from Stade Malien after their 2009 CAF Confederation Cup success and at 25 is now making waves in Port Said.
Ethiopian Coffee will win the Ethiopia Premier League title if they win their final game on Monday against Muger Cement.
Sunshine Stars took over as leaders of the Nigeria Premier League for the first time after beating Kaduna United 4-1.
Surprise leaders Kabuscorp beat second placed Petro Atletico to go four points clear in Angola’s GiraBola.