Stalemates leave semis wide open
The CAF Champions League semi-finals remain wide open after last year's finalists Al Ahly and Esperance drew their first legs away. The winners of the two-legged final will join Raja Casablanca - who qualify as the host nation's champions - as Africa's representatives at the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013 in December.
Game of the week*Orlando Pirates 0-0 Esperance* 1995 winners Orlando Pirates have their work cut out if they are to lift their second title, after the Buccaneers were held to a goalless draw at home by Esperance. Both sides created chances to score but failed to get the ball into the back of the net. Cameroonian striker Joseph Yannick Ndjeng came close shortly before the break but failed to beat goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa, while at the other end Moez Ben Cherifia did well to deny Thabo Matlaba in injury time. Pirates coach Roger De Sa said that his side could come back from the return leg with a result. "They’ll open up a little more at home, and that will help us a bit because we like the game to be more open," he said. "That will give us a few more opportunities. But they’ll be better as well."
Other match Coton Sport and Al Ahly had to play well over two hours of football over the weekend as a torrential downpour caused Saturday's game to be called off on the hour mark with the score goalless, and the match was replayed 24 hours later. Unlike the previous day, when Al Ahly enjoyed most of the possession, it was the home side that started stronger on Sunday and deserved their lead, which came in the 34th minute after Emmanuel Mbongo, who represented Cameroon at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011, beat his marker and scored with a low shot. The seven-time champions hit back before the break though when veteran playmaker Mohamed Aboutrika flicked the ball past a Coton defender and beat goalkeeper Loic Feudjou. The Cameroonian side pushed up the pace in the second half, looking for a victory that would give them the advantage going into the return leg, but Aminou Bouba headed their best chance wide from close range.
Player of the week Playmaker Mohamed Aboutrika has already written plenty of Champions League history. In 2006, CS Sfaxien were seconds away from holding Al Ahly to a goalless draw, which would have given the Tunisians the title, but Aboutrika had different ideas as he found the net deep into injury time. It was his second Champions League triumph and since then, he has added two more. He is also a two-time winner of the African Nations Cup. Although he is nearing the end of his illustrious career, the 34-year-old is still an important player for Egypt's national team and the Red Devils, for whom he has been playing since 2004, and his equalising goal against Coton Sport could well see Ahly through to their tenth final.
The stat 0 -The number of goals Orlando Pirates have managed to score against Tunisian opposition in the CAF Champions League. The last time the Buccaneers made it to the round of the last four - in 2004 - they faced CS Sfaxien. A goalless draw in South Africa was followed by a 1-0 defeat in Tunisia, with Tarek Ziadi scoring the decisive goal late in the first half.
What they said Maher Kanzari, Esperance coach: "I would have preferred to lose 2-1, at least we could have scored an away goal. The goalless draw is a very bad result for us. It will make problems for us, and we have to think about how to deal with them."
Have your say Can Esperance become the fourth team to qualify for a fourth final in a row? The Tunisians won in 2011 and were beaten finalists in 2010 and 2012. The only other clubs to have played four consecutive finals are TP Engelbert (1967-1970), Hafia FC (1975-1978) and Al Ahly (2005-2008).