Johannesburg (AFP) – Title-holders Esperance and former winners TP Mazembe and Mamelodi Sundowns flexed their muscles Saturday with convincing CAF Champions League matchday one victories.
Anice Badri and Ibrahim Ouattara scored within the first 15 minutes for Esperance of Tunisia away to Raja Casablanca of Morocco, and they then pulled down the shutters for a 2-0 triumph.
Jackson Muleka punished woeful marking to nod two goals as Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo overpowered Zamalek of Egypt 3-0 in central Africa.
Uruguayan Mauricio Affonso took advantage of a rare start for Sundowns by scoring within seven minutes of the kick-off to set up a 3-0 romp over Petro Luanda of Angola in Pretoria.
The other matches, between USM Alger of Algeria and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco in Blida and Primeiro Agosto of Angola and Zesco United of Zambia in Luanda, ended in a 1-1 draws.
On Friday, there were home wins for Etoile Sahel of Tunisia, Al Hilal of Sudan and JS Kabylie of Algeria over Al Ahly of Egypt, Platinum of Zimbabwe and V Club of DR Congo respectively.
Esperance have battled lately on international stages, struggling to edge Elect-Sport of Chad in a Champions League qualifier and unexpectedly losing an Arab Club Champions Cup tie.
In contrast, Raja entered matchday one buoyant having wiped out a 4-1 second-half deficit to draw with arch rivals Wydad on win on away goals over two legs in the same Arab competition.
But a whirlwind start by Esperance, seeking a record third straight Champions League title, caught Raja cold under coach Jamel Sellimi, who recently succeeded Frenchman Patrice Carteron.
Victory took Esperance to first place in Group D — considered the strongest of the four — on goal difference from Kabylie ahead of a top-of-the-table clash in Tunisia this Friday.
– Birthday celebrations –
Mazembe, who won the last of five Champions League titles in 2015, followed up 80th birthday celebrations this week by dominating Zamalek, who have also been champions five times.
Egyptian defenders are among the best in Africa so Muleka must have surprised at having so much space to finish crosses while veteran Tresor Mputu struck with a superbly placed shot.
The convincing win shot Mazembe to the top of Group A with three points, Zesco and Primeiro have one each and Zamalek none.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane said in pre-match interviews that he feared the physicality of Petro, who lost a 2001 semi-final between the clubs.
But his concerns proved unfounded as headed goals from gangling Affonso and Motjeka Madisha had the South African side two goals ahead inside 29 minutes.
Sphelele Mkhulise completed an easier than expected victory and lifted Sundowns to the Group C summit, two points above two-time champions Wydad and USM.
Abdelkrim Zouari gave USM a fifth-minute lead they retained until one minute from time when Badie Aouk darted unnoticed into the box and scored a soft equaliser.
The eight matchday two fixtures are scheduled for this Friday and Saturday as the 16 contenders pursue dreams of banking the $2.5 million (2.25 mn euros) first prize.
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