Kotoko crowned, Swallows soar
Asante Kotoko are champions again in Ghana, extending their record number of title triumphs and booking a CAF Champions League place for next year. In Algeria and South Africa, things are heading toward a dramatic finish, while champions Recreativo Libolo are threatening to open up space at the top of the Angolan GiraBola.
Ghana Premier League: Champions crowned
Asante Kotoko clinched their record 22nd league title with four matches left in the season, although the occasion did not come in spectacular fashion as the Kumasi-based club were held to a goalless draw at home. However, both their closest rivals lost to leave the Porcupines Warriors 15 points clear of AshantiGold and Hearts of Oak.
Big game: Kotoko had hoped to capture their first title since 2008 with a flourish at the Baba Yara Stadium against struggling Berekum Arsenal, but the game ended goalless. There were chances at both ends with Ahmed Toure and Iddrisu Nafiu coming closest for the new champions but both sides left satisfied with the end result.
Headline-grabbers: It was hoped that the arrival of Charles Akonnor as coach of Hearts of Oak would revive their fortunes, but the former Bundesliga player has won just twice in five matches since taking over. The demise of their championship chances has been picked over by the press in recent days, moving Akunnor to tell reporters there were “some internal challenges which will be looked at”.
South Africa Premier League: Tussle at the top
Congestion continues to mount as Mamelodi Sundowns went back on top but only on goal difference from Orlando Pirates. SuperSport United are right in the hunt, just one point back, after winning for a fourth successive time, and Moroka Swallows kept alive their hopes in a thrilling home win. But Kaizer Chiefs are out of the race after losing four successive matches for the first time in their 42-year history.
Big game: After two successive losses against supposedly inferior opposition, the pressure sat firmly on Johan Neeskens and his Sundowns team. But they responded with a 3-1 home win over relegation-haunted Santos, in a performance the Dutch-born coach insisted was no different to any of their recent losses, except they were more accurate with their finishing.
Headline-grabbers: At the age of 34, Siyabonga Nomvete is still doing the business in front of goal. He passed a career tally of 100 goals in scoring a hat-trick for Swallows as they came from behind to beat Lamontville Golden Arrows in Soweto. At the same time, he increased his tally for the season to 16 and looks set to be crowned the league’s top goal scorer. The pressure for him to get a recall to the national team is increasing with every strike.
Algeria Ligue 1: History in the making?
JSM Bejaia, in search of their first-ever league title, moved to the top of Ligue 1 after a 2-2 draw away at USM El Harrach, overtaking ES Setif who lost for a second successive time. Bejaia’s lead is on goal difference alone and could be gone by Thursday, when third-placed Bélouizdad can overtake them. Bélouizdad are just two points behind the co-leaders and meet MC Alger next.
Big game: Bejaia were runners-up last season, but they have yet to finish better than that in their near-80 year existence. However, the character shown in a gutsy comeback at the weekend suggests they could well rewrite the narrative. Ahmed Gasmi and Mohamed Derrag scored in the last quarter-hour as Bejaia came from two goals down away after USM El Harrach had taken a lead through Yaya Karim Mahamat and Amine Touahri.
Headline-grabbers: One win in their last five games has seen former African champions Setif squander a strong position at the top of the table. Their latest setback came at Tlemcen where Malagasy international Carolus Andriamatsinoro scored for the home side midway through the first half.
Angola GiraBola: Picking up where they left off
Champions Recreativo Libolo have opened up a two-point lead after winning away for a fourth time this season with a 1-0 triumph at Onze Bravos. It puts the side from Kwanza Sul clear of Primeiro Agosto, who had the beating of bottom-placed Sporting Cabinda 4-1. Petro Atletico dropped to third after losing their first game of the season to InterClube in midweek.
Big game: Unbeaten Libolo have it made it seven wins out of eight in total in the new league season, picking up from where they left off last campaign. The trip to Estadio Mundunduleno in Liuena to face Bravos is always difficult, but the GiraBola champions were ahead after just ten minutes through striker Rasca, and it stayed that way until the end to the great satisfaction of coach Zeca Amaral.
Headline-grabbers: Bernardino Pedroto is back on the coaching circuit in Angola, brought by struggling InterClube to revive their fortunes. He has won a record five GiraBola titles - with AS Aviacao from 2002 to 2004 and with Petro Atletico in 2008 and 2009 - but he has his work cut out at Inter, who lie near the bottom. However, his first match back was a success, as Inter upset Petro for their first win of the season.
St. George were held to a draw at the weekend to see their lead in Ethiopia cut to four points.
Sewe Sport lead Group A and Jeunesse Club Abidjan are top of the standings in Group B of the Ivorian league.
Defending champions Power Dynamos and Zesco United are the only unbeaten teams left in Zambia after the first six rounds of the season.