Various African teams have gone through the first round of the CAF Champions League. Maghreb clubs distinguished themselves from the start with practically no flaws.
From West Africa, the Ivorian team ASEC d’Abidjan did well compared to Asante Kotoko, who lost their flag before the beginning of the Champions League.
North African clubs almost flawless
North Africa’s teams like Al Ahly, Wydad Casablanca, Espérance de Tunis and Raja Casablanca were excused from the competition’s first round.
Almost predictably, all North African teams replied, although Algeria’s double winners, CR Belouizdad, were beaten at home by Sierra Leone’s Bo Rangers, 0-0, 3-0.
In a somewhat identical scenario, JS Kabylie eliminated Senegal champions Casa Sports despite a loss in the first leg (0-1, 3-0).
The sole surprise came from Burundi, where the Flambeau du Center defeated Al Ittihad de Tripoli, the former club of Patrick Mboma, the 18-time Libyan champion. Egypt’s Zamalek, who have only played the first leg, for the time being, defeated Elec Football Club 2-0 in Chad.
The East African leaders’ meeting
Tanzania and Sudan will face each other through clashes between Al Hilal, Al Merreikh, Simba SC, and Yanga SC.
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Al Hilal attracted the greatest players from leagues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Ghana. The squad is under Florian Ibenge, who previously led the Moroccan team RS de Berkane to a CAF Cup double.
In a challenging first round, Saint-Georges’ opponent, thirty-time Ethiopian champion Al Hilal, was on the verge of a terrible surprise.
After leading 2-0 in Addis Ababa, it was a late score reduction that allowed the Sudanese giants to depart with a priceless but on the outside before prevailing in the last seconds of the second leg at a sold-out Al-Hilal stadium.
This victory is critical for the new coach, tasked with advancing to the Champions League semi-finals. His adversary, Al Merreikh, struggled to get an advantage over Salomon Kalou and Alexandre Song’s club.
Dar es Salam’s two teams got off a little easier. Simba SC defeated Malawi’s Nyasa Big Bullets in two 2-0 victories, with goals from Zambian rookie Moses Phiri.
The unbeaten Tanzania champion (since April 25, 2021) trounced South Sudan’s Zalan FC 9-0 over two games.
ASEC ensures, but Kotoko fails in West Africa
West Africa lags behind other areas in the club level, except for Guinea’s AC Horoya, which hasn’t been a fixture in African tournaments for a decade.
The team has been excused from the first round of the Champions League to give Guinea a reasonably decent CAF coefficient.
However, the Abidjan ASEC advanced and found a satisfactory level.
After reaching the CAF Cup group stage last season, the Ivorian champion performed a fantastic economic operation by selling young prodigy Karim Konaté to Red Bull Salzburg for 3.5 million euros, a tidy amount for the club’s coffers.
ASEC defeated Coton Sport of Benin 2-1 and 2-0 to secure a place in the next round.
Despite a rocky off-season that ended in the resignation of its coach Dr. Narteh Ogum and the departure of major executives, Ghana’s Asante Kotoko acted as favorites against Burkina Faso’s RC Kadiogo.
After winning 1-0 away, the Ghanaians fell 1-0 in the Baba Yara Stadium, bringing their African adventure to an end.
The CAF Champions League’s next phase promises conflicts throughout East Africa, most notably between Yanga SC and Al Hilal Omdurman. ASEC Abidjan will take against Horoya AC in West Africa.
Otherwise, the Angolans of Petro Luanda will meet Cape Town FC, who finished second in the South African championship last year.