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Mazembe, Sundowns qualify and Esperance unbeaten in 18 matches

Johannesburg (AFP) – TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa survived scares on Saturday to become the first qualifiers for the CAF Champions League quarter-finals.

Five-time champions Mazembe fell behind after eight minutes against Primeiro Agosto of Angola in Lubumbashi and did not take the lead until midway through the second half in a 2-1 win. 

Former trophy-holders Sundowns also won 2-1 after USM Alger of Algeria wasted a late chance to level in Pretoria when a Mohamed Meftah penalty struck the woodwork.

Defending champions Esperance of Tunisia are close to a last-eight place after stretching an unbeaten Champions League run to 18 matches by beating V Club of DR Congo 2-0 in Kinshasa.

Fellow Tunisian club Etoile Sahel came from behind to overcome Al Hilal of Sudan 2-1 in Omdurman and Petro Luanda of Angola and Wydad Casablanca drew 2-2 in Luanda.

Platinum of Zimbabwe, the only club without a point going into matchday four, held record eight-time champions Al Ahly of Egypt 1-1 in Bulawayo.

On Friday, JS Kabylie of Algeria and Raja Casablanca of Morocco drew 0-0 in Tizi Ouzou and Zamalek of Egypt triumphed 2-0 against Zesco United of Zambia in Cairo.

The weekend results mean the eight seeded clubs are well placed to reach the quarter-finals with two matchdays to come in the elite African club competition.

Just hours after Mazembe named Serb Dragan Cvetkovic technical director, they were stunned when Cristovao Mabululu scored his sixth CAF goal this season for Primeiro. 

– Turn the tide –

Stubborn Angolan resistance then kept the Congolese side at bay until Chico Ushindi and star forward Jackson Muleka netted within nine minutes during the second half to turn the tide.

Mazembe top Group A with 10 points, Zamalek have seven and Zesco and Primeiro two each ahead of a top-of-the-table clash in Cairo on January 25.

All the goals in Pretoria came late in the opening half with Thapelo Morena putting the South Africans ahead, Aymen Mahious equalising and Sibusiso Vilakazi scoring the winner.

Meftah sent Uganda goalkeeper Denis Onyango the wrong way with his spot-kick, but the ball hit the crossbar and flew over to leave 2015 runners-up USM winless after four group matches.

Sundowns head Group D on 10 points followed by twice champions Wydad on six and USM and Petro with two apiece.

Etoile avenged a shock home loss to Hilal thanks to a 71st-minute Iheb Msakni goal.

Hilal led through Waleed Bakhet, but Omer Hassan conceded an own-goal before half-time and they were reduced to 10 men when Nasr Eldin Sheighel was red-carded soon after Msakni scored.

Etoile also finished with 10 men when goalkeeper Makram Bediri was sent off during nine minutes of stoppage time.

Victory took Etoile back to the summit of Group B on nine points with Ahly (seven), Hilal (six) and Platinum (one) behind them.

A stoppage-time goal from Hamdou Elhouni sealed maximum points for Esperance and lifted them to 10 points in Group D followed by Raja (seven), Kabylie (four) and V Club (one).

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