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CAF history seekers Primeiro hold slim advantage

Johannesburg (AFP) – Primeiro Agosto take a 1-0 lead into the second leg of a CAF Champions League semi-final against Esperance in Tunisia Tuesday hoping to become the first Angolan finalists.

The closest a club from the oil-rich southern Africa state has come to reaching the tile decider was Petro Atletico getting to the 2001 semi-finals before losing on penalties.

Reaching the penultimate stage of the elite African club competition this year is a remarkable achievement by Primeiro, whose financial backers include the Angolan military.

They scraped into the group phase on penalties and scored eight minutes into stoppage time to snatch a crucial mini-league victory.

The greatest achievement was stunning five-time champions TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the quarter-finals with Adao Cabaca saving two second-leg penalties.

Mazembe also had two goals disallowed as Primeiro rode their luck to dump one of the title favourites out of a competition with a $2.5 million (about 2.2 mn euros) first prize.

Cabaca could be the busiest footballer in Rades as two-time champions Esperance seek to overcame a 1-0 first-leg loss with Luvumbo ‘Bua’ Pedro scoring eight minutes from time.

AFP Sport previews the second legs, with the other one pitting twice title-holders Entente Setif of Algeria against record eight-time champions Al Ahly of Egypt, who lead 2-0. 

Esperance v Primeiro

Primeiro coach Zoran Manojlovic believes Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe will play a crucial role in a second leg as Esperance seek overall victory under a new handler.

“The first leg referee was terrible and hurt us a lot,” the Serb told AFP. “I do not fear Esperance in Tunisia, only other factors such as the match officiating.

“We beat one of the strongest clubs in Africa in Luanda and continue to dream of creating history by becoming the first Angolan side to reach the Champions League final.”

Esperance fired Khalid Ben Yahia after a domestic loss following the defeat in Angola and elevated his assistant, Moin Chabani, into one of the hottest seats in African football.

Chabani will want to ensure that 1994 and 2011 champions Esperance remain a thorn in the side of glory-seeking Angolan clubs.

In now defunct competitions, the Tunis outfit beat Petro 2-1 on aggregate in the 1997 CAF Cup final and Primeiro 4-2 overall in the African Cup Winners Cup final one season later.

Setif v Ahly

Transformed Ahly take a seven-match unbeaten Champions League record into the return match at a ground where they fell 2-0 to Setif in the semi-finals 30 years ago. 

Setif went on to win the 1988 tie after a penalty shootout, then trounced Iwuanyanwu Nationale of Nigeria in the final to be crowned African champions for the first time.

Ahly are favourites to go through this time, though, with French coach Patrice Carteron guiding the Cairo ‘Red Devils’ to six wins and a draw since replacing Hossam el Badry.

El Badry quit after a 2-0 group loss at Kampala Capital City Authority of Uganda that imperilled the title dreams of the twice back-to-back African champions.

Carteron, a Champions League-winning coach with Mazembe three seasons ago, credits recent signing Salif Coulibaly with a key role in the Ahly revival.

“Salif is not just a good defender, he is also a true leader,” Carteron said of the giant Mali centre-back who was with him at Mazembe.

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