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Egyptians Mokawloon brought down to earth by Etoile Sahel

Johannesburg (AFP) – Egyptian club Al Mokawloon Al Arab, who scored nine times at home in the CAF Confederation Cup preliminary round, could not manage a single goal in a last 32 first leg. 

The Cairo club, back in pan-African competition after a 15-year absence, drew 0-0 with Tunisian visitors Etoile Sahel in a cagey clash in Cairo that produced few scoring chances.

Mokawloon lacked four regular starters due to Covid-19 and could have lost as Yassine Chikhaoui and Wajdi Kechrida of Etoile wasted the best opportunities.

Here, AFP Sport looks at five talking points from the 14 midweek first legs.

Cairo letdown

Mokawloon had a genuine penalty appeal rejected in a first leg showdown that promised much more than it delivered.

Etoile are the only club to have won all five current and past CAF titles — the Champions League once and the Confederation Cup, Super Cup, African Cup Winners Cup and CAF Cup twice each.

Mokawloon, who are bankrolled by a Middle East construction company, were called Arab Contractors when they lifted the Cup Winners Cup in 1982, 1983 and 1996.

Pirates sail on  

Famed South African outfit Orlando Pirates began a third attempt to win the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League with a 1-0 away victory over Esperanca Sagrada of Angola in Luanda.

International midfielder Thembinkosi Lorch was the match winner, netting 17 minutes from time for the Soweto Buccaneers.

Pirates reached the playoffs in the maiden Confederation Cup 16 years ago and lost 2-1 on aggregate to Etoile Sahel in the 2015 final.   

Berkane held

Moroccan club Renaissance Berkane made a quiet start to their Confederation Cup title defence by drawing 0-0 away to Tevragh Zeina from neighbouring Mauritania.

Berkane should have little difficulty winning the second leg at home next month as they seek to emulate CS Sfaxien of Tunisia and TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo and win back-to-back titles.

They were runners-up to Zamalek of Egypt in 2019 and went one better this year by edging Pyramids of Egypt 1-0 in the final thanks to a goal from Burkinabe Issoufou Dayo.

Dominant Rivers

Rivers United of Nigeria are virtually assured of a place in the next phase after a 2-0 away victory over Bloemfontein Celtic of South Africa. 

The dominant visitors broke the deadlock on 70 minutes through Godwin Aguda and Fortune Omoniwari put the outcome beyond doubt with a second goal 10 minutes before time.

It was a much improved showing by Port Harcourt-based Rivers after squeezing past debutants Futuro Kings of Equatorial Guinea on penalties in the preliminary round.

Impressive Kabylie

Algerian outfit JS Kabylie, whose last of six CAF titles was won 18 years ago, got off to a good start with a 2-1 away victory over Gendarmerie Nationale of Niger in Niamey.

A Redha Bensayah goal for the visiting Canaries was cancelled before Massinissa Nezla snatched the winner two minutes from time.

Kabylie have won the Champions League twice, the African Cup Winners Cup once and the CAF Cup three consecutive times between 2000 and 2002.

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