Monday, April 9, 2007

African Champions League Update

I didn't get a chance to see any African Champions League games this weekend. I couldn't find a place in New York City that showed the matches, but I may (*may*) have found a few spots to see the 2nd legs when they come. More on that later.

On a culinary note, I did make it out to a South African restaurant in Brooklyn for brunch yesterday. It's called Madiba and it's supposed to be the real deal. The food was good and I wholeheartedly recommend it if you're in the city. Looks like I have something to look forward to when I get out to SA food wise (when I go? Ok, if i go! No, no ... when!).

So what happened this weekend in Africa's Champions League?
Well, here's what my sources tell me (ok, what BBC and the CAF website tell me)...

South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns staged a remarkable comeback to snatch a 2-2 draw with holders Al Ahly in Pretoria.

Mohamed Barakat marked his return from a long-standing injury to score a vital away goal for the Egyptians.

Midfielder Barakat, voted the competition's best player two years ago, opened the scoring for Ahly after 28 minutes.

His Angolan team mate Flavio extended the lead with a stunning long-range goal ten minutes after the interval.

Sundowns clawed their way back with headers from full back Oscar Ntwagae and Venezuela international Jose Torrealba in the last quarter-hour. Ahly were on the verge of securing a 2-1 victory till the 89th minute when the Venezuelan born striker pulled even for the South Africans.

Portuguese coach of Al Ahly, Jose Manuel attributed his team's inability to carry the day to the loss of concentration by his players during the latter stages of the game. "My players weren't at their best and they lost concentration during the last 20 minutes which cost us a lot," he said.

But his counterpart, Gordon Igesund pointed fingers at luck for the result, despite fighting back from two goals.
"With more luck we could have won this game. We created a lot of chances. Anyway we have a second chance and we will have to go to Egypt to win."

Though he could not end the unbeaten run of the defending African champions, he said, "It’s in our hands and I think we proved to ourselves that they can easily be beaten."

Should be an exciting second leg.

In other action, Ghana's Abdul Nafiu Iddrisu scored both goals as ASEC of Ivory Coast beat Morocco's Wydad Casablanca 2-0 in the Champions League Sunday in Abidjan.

ASEC, gallant semi-finals losers to eventual champions Al Ahly of Egypt last year, entered the first leg of the final round qualifier under fire from coach Patrick Liewig.

The Frenchman, who watched from a stand at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium due to a four-match CAF ban, slammed the poor finishing and teamwork of ASEC in recent matches.

Democratic Republic of Congo side TP Mazembe beat FAR Rabat of Morocco 1-0 in another third round matchup.

The home side won the match thanks to a second half penalty converted by midfielder Alain Kaluyituka Tioko.

Mazembe were forced to play their home tie in the capital because of the ban imposed last year by CAF on their home ground in Lubumbashi.

Here's a rundown of the scores from around the continent:

In Abidjan: ASEC Abidjan (Ivory Coast) v Wydad Casablanca (Morocco) 2-0

In Brazzaville: Etoile du Congo (Congo) v Al Ittihad (Libya) 3-1

In Garoua: Coton Sport (Cameroon) v JS Kabylie (Algeria) 1-0

In Kinshasa: TP Mazembe Englebert (DR Congo) v Royal Armed Forces (Morocco) 1-0

In Lafia: Nasarawa United (Nigeria) v Al Hilal (Sudan) 3-0

In Wome: Maranatha Fiokpo (Togo) v Etoile Sahel (Tunisia) 0-0

In Tunisia: Esperance (TUN) 3-0 Young Africans (TAN)

In Pretoria: Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA) 2-2 Ahly (EGY)

Return matches are scheduled for the weekend of April 20-22 with the eight winners split into two groups and the losers entering the second-tier Confederation Cup.

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