Esperance climb, Sundowns hang on
League leaders Mamelodi Sundowns were held to a surprising draw in South Africa but still have a healthy three-point lead as the second half of the campaign gets underway. In Ghana, the season is at the same stage with Asante Kotoko leading by four points, while many of the top clubs in Africa spent the weekend competing in the start of the latest edition of the CAF Champions League.
South Africa Premier League: Doing the pack a favour
Relegation-threatened Jomo Cosmos did the chasing pack an unexpected favour by holding leaders Mamelodi Sundowns to a goalless draw. That means the gap between Sundowns and second-placed duo Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United is now just three points.
Big game: Both coaches claimed that the traditional derby between Chiefs and Moroka Swallows at Soccer City could have finished 6-6, such was open and entertaining football on show from two sides that started the match in joint-second. But it was Chiefs who claimed a flattering 3-0 triumph, including two goals for Mandla Masango, who had only recently been restored to the starting line-up.
Headline-grabbers: Second-from-bottom Jomo Cosmos have had one of the leakiest defences in the league this season, but in the showcase matches their veteran goalkeeper Avril Phadi has risen to the occasion. He earned yet another Man of the Match award for almost single-handedly keeping Sundowns out at the weekend, and was in similarly fine form last Wednesday when Cosmos earned another unexpected point against Chiefs.
Tunisia Ligue 1: Super warm-up for Esperance
Esperance warmed up for this weekend’s CAF Super Cup tie at home to Maghreb Fes of Morocco with a hard fought 1-0 win over CS Sfaxien, their second win in five days as they play catch-up in the league. The continental champions still have a game in hand but are six points behind leaders CA Bizertin, who did not play at the weekend.
Big game: New coach Michel Decastel called Esperance’s victory good preparation for the Super Cup but more importantly the source of three precious points. Back for a second spell in charge of the club, the Swiss boss said success in the league depends on winning matches against key contenders like CSS. “Our experience and realism is what counted in the end,” he insisted after the 71st-minute winner from Iheb Msakni.
Headline-grabbers: New signing Msakni proved the star of the show after coming on in the second half of a predictably tight game. His creativity proved decisive and a reminder of his potential after the disappointment he suffered in being cut from Tunisia’s final 23-man squad for the just-completed CAF Africa Cup of Nations. Msakni joined his highly-rated younger brother Youssef in the Esperance line-up.
Ghana Premier League: Kotoko win away to keep lead
Asante Kotoko kept up their four-point lead in the league with an important away win, but their perennial rivals Hearts of Oak remain in touch after also winning at the weekend. The Phobians went second after beating Heart of Lions, leaving Berekum Chelsea down in third spot, seven points off the pace. Chelsea were making a successful Champions League debut at the weekend and have a game in hand in the league race.
Big game: U-23 international striker Ben Acheampong scored the only goal away in Sekondi as Asante Kotoko overcame Medeama Sporting Club with a 1-0 win. The goal came on the stroke of half-time as Acheampong rose to head home a corner and cast aside the demons of the last six months, which has included trouble with a transfer, a knee injury and a car accident.
Headline-grabbers: Laryea Kingston played almost 50 times for Ghana’s Black Stars and has had a career that includes stints in Libya, Israel, Russia, Scotland and the Netherlands. Now though, he is back home at former club Hearts of Oak, and he debuted in the 1-0 win over Heart of Lions. “I think I still have a lot left in me, so I decided to help,” the former international said.
Kenya Premier League: Sugarmen find a sweet start
Sony Sugar, under the helm of former national coach Zedekiah Otieno, won a second successive game at the start of the new season and stand alone at the top of the standings. But champions Tusker FC will play only their second league match in midweek along with Gor Mahia, who were also in African club competition action this weekend.
Big game: AFC Leopards wrapped up their first win of the season just minutes into the second half with a second goal in the 2-0 win against Mathare United. Leopards have a new look to their side after a busy off-season in the transfer market as they seek to return to their previously dominant place in Kenyan club football, while venerable Mathare United are in an unaccustomed position at the bottom after suffering their second successive defeat.
Headline-grabbers: Enock Agwanda scored after just 45 seconds to get Sony Sugar off to a flying start in their 2-1 win at Oserian. Agwanda has recently come up from the club’s youth ranks and proven again his potential. But despite the quick start, Sony Sugar needed a last-minute winner from Jared Ogalo after their hosts equalised in the 85th minute.
CR Belouizdad’s goalless draw at home to MC Alger denied them a chance to move up into second place on a weekend in which the top two teams in Algeria - ES Setif and ASO Chlef - were not in league action.
Kwara United kept up their winning run and maintained a two-point lead in Nigeria with a 2-1 home win over Akwa United.
Coton Sport won their derby 2-0 at Scorpion Bey to stay top in Cameroon as they seek to win their 10th title in the last 12 years.