Johannesburg (AFP) – Nigerians Kingsley Eduwo and Anayo Iwuala struck the goals that gave Esperance of Tunisia a 3-0 victory at Jwaneng Galaxy of Botswana on Saturday and sealed a CAF Champions League quarter-finals place.
Eduwo opened and rounded off the scoring in Francistown and Iwuala netted in between as the four-time title-holders cruised to another Group C victory over Galaxy, having put four goals past them when they met in Tunisia.
Chabab Belouizdad of Algeria also reached the knockout phase of the marquee African club competition thanks to a 2-0 home win over Etoile Sahel of Tunisia in the same section.
The qualifications of Esperance and Belouizdad raised to seven the number of teams who have secured top-two finishes in the four groups with one matchday remaining.
On Friday, Raja Casablanca of Morocco, Entente Setif of Algeria and Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa progressed to the quarter-finals of a competition offering a $2.5 million (2.26 mn euros) first prize.
Last weekend, surprise side Petro Atletico of Angola and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco were the first teams to reach the knockout stage.
With seven clubs qualifying, there is just one place to be filled, either by Egyptian defending champions Al Ahly or Al Hilal of Sudan, on April 1 or 2.
Ahly will host Hilal in Cairo and need a draw to advance, while a win for Hilal would take them through on head-to-head records after the first match between the decades-old rivals ended in a 0-0 draw.
Record 10-time African champions Ahly hope to become the first club to win the competition three consecutive times.
Ahly and TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo (twice each) and Enyimba of Nigeria and Esperance (once each) have won back-to-back titles only to fail in bids for three triumphs on the spin.
– First-place contests –
While the battle for quarter-finals places is all but over, the contests for first places will rage on in the final matchday with only Group A pace-setters Sundowns assured of finishing first.
The Pretoria outfit overcame the 11th-minute red-carding of Kenyan centre-back Brian Onyango to defeat Hilal 4-2 in the 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) heat of Omdurman.
Full-back Thapelo Morena, who scored the winner in a surprise triumph over Ahly in Cairo, netted twice for the South Africans and Namibian sharpshooter Peter Shalulile was also among the goals.
Former Sundowns star Percy Tau put Ahly ahead in a 3-1 win over Al Merrikh of Sudan, who staged the fixture in Cairo because their ground in Omdurman does not meet international standards.
The comfortable victories of Esperance and Belouizdad left them level on 11 points ahead of a final-round showdown near Tunis to decide who wins Group C.
Raja need a point from the visit of Setif to retain the Group B leadership, and the Moroccans have recovered well after losing forwards Soufiane Rahimi and Ben Malango to Middle East clubs.
They were barely troubled by group debutants AmaZulu of South Africa in Durban en route to a 2-0 win via goals from Hamid Ahadad and Ilias Haddad.
Setif took advantage of Guinean visitors Horoya being reduced to 10 men on 80 minutes to snatch a 3-2 win through a couple of late goals from Riad Benayah.
There was also late drama in Group D with Wydad replacing Petro in first place after a Juvhel Tsoumou header four minutes into added time brought a 2-1 away win over Sagrada Esperanca of Angola in Luanda.
Earlier, Petro were held 0-0 by Zamalek at the same stadium, with the visitors showing improved form too late to avoid a shock early exit from a competition they have won five times.
Youssef Obama scored for the Cairo outfit only to be ruled offside and Mohamed Abdel Ghani struck the woodwork.
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