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Much-improved football champions Sundowns upset V Club

Johannesburg (AFP) – Title-holders Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa produced one of their finest CAF Champions League performances to upset V Club 3-1 Wednesday in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

Liberian Anthony Laffor, Ivorian Yannick Zakri and Sibusiso Vilakazi scored in wet Kinshasa for a Sundowns side that struggled recently in domestic and African matches. 

Malian Oumar Sidibe equalised during the first half for V Club, who surrendered a 16-match unbeaten home run since 2012 in the elite African club competition.

Sundowns and Esperance of Tunisia, who drew 0-0 with Saint George of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa Tuesday, share top place in Group C with four points after two matchdays. 

Group debutants Saint George have two points and former champions V Club are pointless having suffered two-goal losses to Sundowns and twice champions Esperance.

Group winners and runners-up after six matchdays advance to the quarter-finals of a competition offering a record $2.5 million (2.2 million euros) first prize this season.

A flying header from Laffor gave Sundowns a 24th-minute lead and silenced a large crowd in the intimidating cauldron of the 80,000-seat Stade des Martyrs.

Sidibe equalised eight minutes later with a low shot from just outside the box that beat 2016 CAF Africa-based Footballer of the Year Denis Onyango at his near post.

Zakri maintained his recent scoring form by putting the Pretoria outfit ahead again on 57 minutes via a shot under the goalkeeper from close range. 

Sundowns wasted several chances to increase the lead before Vilakazi shrugged off a tackle inside the penalty area and struck the decisive third goal.

Since losing 3-2 at home to ASO Chlef of Algeria in a qualifier five years ago, V Club won 13 Champions League matches and drew three in the Congolese capital.  

The Kinshasa outfit eliminated Sundowns from the Champions League last season only to be disqualified for using a suspended player in earlier qualifying matches. 

Given a reprieve, Sundowns went on to defeat five-time champions Zamalek of Egypt 3-1 on aggregate in the final to become only the second winners from South Africa.

Ronald Chitiyo scored in each half to earn CAPS United of Zimbabwe a 2-1 Group B victory over USM Alger of Algeria at the National Stadium in Harare.

CAPS and USM are one point behind leaders Zamalek, who drew 0-0 away to Al Ahly Tripoli of Libya Tuesday. 

Zanaco of Zambia completed a great day for southern Africa clubs by edging Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 1-0 in Lusaka through an early Ernest Mbewe goal.

Record eight-time champions Al Ahly of Egypt lead Zanaco on goal difference in Group D after a 2-0 victory over Coton Sport in Cameroon the previous day.

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