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Sudanese Bakhit fires hat-trick to rock Nigerian hopefuls Enyimba

Johannesburg (AFP) – A Saifeldin Bakhit hat-trick earned Al Merrikh of Sudan a 3-0 midweek victory over Enyimba of Nigeria in the biggest upset of the CAF Champions League last 32 first legs.

While Sudanese clubs are often formidable at home in sauna-like conditions, even the most partisan supporters of the club could not have envisioned such a wide winning margin.   

History offers Enyimba a glimmer of hope, though, as Simba of Tanzania lost by four goals at home to Mufulira Wanderers of Zambia in 1979 only to win the return match by five goals.

Here, AFP Sport looks at five talking points from the 13 first legs.

Merrikh turnaround

Sudanese international Bakhit struck early and late in the opening half and completed his treble in the final minute of regulation time in Omdurman.

The triumph was a welcome change of Champions League fortunes for Merrikh, who made preliminary round exits in the last three editions. 

They are the only Sudanese club to win a CAF competition, edging Bendel United of Nigeria 1-0 on aggregate in the 1989 African Cup Winners Cup final.

Dramatic fightback

Former champions V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo staged the most dramatic comeback of the round, scoring twice in the final four minutes to draw 2-2 at Young Buffaloes of eSwatini.

Buffaloes look set for a shock victory in Manzini thanks to goals from Phiwayinkhosi Dlamini and Bongwa Matsebula just before and after half-time.

Fiston Mayele halved the deficit with four minutes remaining and Ricky Tulengi levelled off a penalty one minute from time for the Kinshasa club that conquered Africa in 1973.

Nkana preserve record

Zambian club Nkana stretched an unbeaten run in CAF competitions to 63 matches since debuting 37 years ago when they drew 1-1 with Angolan visitors Petro Atletico in Kitwe.

The clubs also drew when they met in Zambia in 1987, and Nkana defied the odds by winning the return match in Luanda.

Nkana looked set to build a narrow first leg lead after Harrison Chisela scored, but a last-minute equaliser from Yano, the nickname of Adriano Belmiro Duarte Nicolau, dashed their hopes.

Perfect finish

An early goal from Perfect Chikwende gave Platinum of Zimbabwe a 1-0 win over Simba of Tanzania in Harare and set up an intriguing return match early next month.

Simba are guided by Belgian Sven Vandenbroeck, who was the assistant coach of Cameroon when they pulled of a surprise 2017 Africa Cup of Nations triumph. 

The Dar es Salaam outfit caused the shock of the preliminary round by eliminating Plateau United of Nigeria, whose coach had set his sights on at least a semi-finals place.

Champions win

Defending champions Al Ahly of Egypt launched their challenge for a record-extending 10th title with a 1-0 away victory over modest AS Sonidep of Niger in Niamey.

Malian Aliou Dieng scored the only goal  for the Cairo Red Devils, who defeated fellow Egyptians and fierce rivals Zamalek 2-1 last month in the 2020 final.

South Africa-born Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane did not travel to west Africa as he is recovering from coronavirus in Cairo.

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