Monday 21 March 2016, 02:32

Congolese clubs keep pace

The final round of two-legged ties ahead of the group phase of the CAF Champions League is dominated by North African clubs who make up seven of the 16 teams remaining in Africa's biggest club competition. The action resumes in April with Algeria, Egypt and Congo DR the last nations with two teams left standing.

Game of the week* Zamalek 2-0 Union Douala* Zamalek gave new coach Alex McLeish a winning start to his CAF Champions League history. The Knights added a 2-0 victory in Cairo against Cameroon's Union Douala for a convincing 3-0 aggregate score. The former Scotland coach, who only took over the five-time champions at the end of February, saw Mahmoud Kahraba open the scoring midway through the first half. The winger, who joined Zamalek in summer, has been criticized recently after poor performances left him dropped from the Pharaohs squad to face Nigeria in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers later this month. But against Douala, he showed his best qualities and was a constant threat to the visitors, who did well to keep to just a goal down until a minute from the end when Ahmed Tawfik put matters beyond doubt with a simple tap-in.

The surprises* Vital'O 2-1 Enyimba CNaPS Sport 2-1 Wydad Casablanca* Even though both former African champions Enyimba and Wydad Casablanca had done most of the hard work in their first leg matches at home – both tacking up 5-1 scores – their fans would not have expected them to be beaten in the return legs in Burundi and Madagascar respectively. But that is exactly what happened as the Nigerian and Moroccan champions were shocked 2-1 on the road. In Bujumbura, Enyimba started with the same team that had beaten Vital'O in the first leg and took the lead through Ikechukwu Ibenegbu. But the brave home side came back with goals by Shashiri Nahimana and Laudit Mavugo to give them a morale-boosting win.

Other matches Defending champions TP Mazembe advanced with a surprisingly tight 3-2 aggregate score after a 1-0 victory against St George at home, with Jonathan Bolingi scoring the only goal of the game in the 88th minute from the penalty spot. New Mazembe coach Hubert Velud opted to play Sylvain Gbohouo in goals instead of African legend Robert Kidiaba, and the Côte d'Ivoire international repaid his coach with a string of excellent saves. Les Corbeaux are joined in the next round by Congo DR rivals Vita Club, who drew 1-1 in Mozambique against Ferroviario, but had won the first leg 1-0 at home.

MO Bejaia knocked out former champions Club Africain 2-1 on aggregate in an all-North African clash, with the Algerian rookies winning 2-0 on the night. The other Tunisian club in the competition was more successful, as Etoile du Sahel beat Olympique Khouribga by the same score for a 3-1 aggregate victory. There was joy for South African club Sundowns, who advanced 3-1 on aggregate after drawing 1-1 at AC Leopards, but disappointment for local rival Kaizer Chiefs, who went out despite a goalless draw in Côte d'Ivoire against ASEC Mimosas after losing the home leg. Last year's Sudanese semi-finalists Al Merreikh and Al Hilal also had different fates as Merreikh added a 1-0 victory against Nigerian club Warri Wolves in the return leg for a 2-0 aggregate victory, while Hilal were knocked out on the away goals rule by Libyan club Al Ahli, who lost 2-1 in Sudan.

Player of the week Last year Ramadan Sobhi became the second-youngest player ever (after Mido) to be capped by Egypt, and if anybody needed any reminding just how promising the 18-year-old is, he produced the goods in Al Ahly's 2-0 victory against Angolan visitors Recreativo do Libolo. Sobhi, who plays as a winger or a playmaker, scored the Red Devil's first goal early in the game from an acute angle and then played his part in the build-up to Ahly's second goal. Sobhi provided a back-heeled pass which was crossed by Walid Soliman to Ghanaian striker John Antwi in the second half to see Africa's most successful club advance 2-0 on aggregate.

The stat** 4 – **The number of goals that the co-leading scorers in the competition have scored. Mamadou Diawara of Recreativo do Libolo is out of the competition, but Wydad Casablanca's Reda Hajhouj and Mfon Udoh, who plays for Enyimba, will have an opportunity to add to their tallies.

What they said “I am going to say something that will surprise everyone: I didn’t mean to score the goal like that. After I passed the defender I was actually trying to pass the ball. The ball touched my shoe’s front and went straight into the net. I was astonished with the replay on television because it looked as If I meant to score it that way,” said **Al Ahly's Ramadan Sobhi**, with remarkable honesty.

Have your say Can Stade Malien become the first club from Mali to advance to the group stage? All 12 other countries that have at least one club in the next round, have already been represented in the group phase.