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Leagues: CAF Champions League

Raja Casablanca win as other CAF Champions League giants struggle

Johannesburg (AFP) – Raja Casablanca, captained by 35-year-old Mohsine Moutaouali, were the only club among eight seeded to reach the CAF Champions League knockout stage who won on a goal-shy second matchday.

The Moroccan outfit, who last lifted the marquee African club trophy in 1999, edged Entente Setif of Algeria 1-0 through a second-half goal from Mohamed Zrida in Algiers.

Of the seven other first and second seeds in action, defending champions Al Ahly and Zamalek of Egypt, Esperance and Etoile Sahel of Tunisia and Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa drew.

Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and Horoya of Guinea, the lone team among 16 contenders not to earn at least one point during the first two matchdays, lost in a round where eight matches produced just nine goals.

Seeking a fourth title, Raja are the only team boasting a perfect record from qualifying and group matches and are also the only side not to concede.

The Green Eagles top Group B with six points having beaten South African visitors AmaZulu 1-0 last weekend in the Moroccan commercial capital.

Group debutants AmaZulu remained in contention for a top-two finish and a quarter-final place by winning 1-0 against Horoya in Durban through a back-heeled Luvuyo Memela goal on 31 minutes.

AmaZulu and Setif, the sole former champions not among the seeds, have three points each while Horoya appear out of the running following two losses.

Ahly, chasing a record third straight title, belatedly began their Group A campaign with a 0-0 draw against Al Hilal of Sudan in the 31 degrees Celsius (88 Fahrenheit) heat of Omdurman.

In a match of few scoring chances, Ahly nearly snatched victory in added time when substitute Mohamed ‘Afsha’ Magdy struck the woodwork.

“It was an okay rather than a good result,” said South Africa-born Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane, the second most successful coach behind Portuguese Manuel Jose in African club competitions with six titles.

– Challenging conditions –

“A good result would have been a victory, but Hilal are a formidable team and the conditions were challenging.”

Ahly could not play another Sudanese side, Al Merrikh, in the first round because they were competing in the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, where they finished third.

Group leaders Sundowns squandered a chance to move five points clear of Ahly when held 0-0 by Merrikh, who had to host the match in Cairo because their ground does not meet international standards.

The South Africans, who gradually faded after a bright start, came close to winning in added time when Thabiso Kutumela poked a loose ball just wide of the far post.

Sundowns have four points and Ahly, Merrikh and Hilal one each ahead of a showdown between the Egyptian and South African clubs in Cairo next Saturday.

Petro Luanda, an Angolan team bolstered by several Brazilians, are the surprise Group D pacesetters after following up an away draw against Zamalek by defeating Wydad 2-1 in Luanda.

Captain Tiago Azulao put the hosts ahead with a low shot across goalkeeper Ahmed Tagnaouti and Jalal Daoudi levelled by scoring direct from a free-kick close to the touchline.

Yano scored the decisive goal midway through the second half by racing clear and beating Tagnaouti at his near post.

In the second match of a Luanda double-header, Sagrada Esperanca of Angola and Zamalek drew 0-0 in a game that featured some excellent saves from Leonardo Mutunda for the hosts and Mohamed Abou Gabal.

Four-time champions Esperance preserved an unbeaten record and the Group C leadership when full-back Zied Machmoum equalised on 82 minutes in a 1-1 draw away to Chabab Belouizdad of Algeria.

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