CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE:Draws leave leaders smiling in Africa

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CAF Champions League hopefuls TP Mazembe and CS Sfaxien have the advantage of being able to play their return legs in the semi-finals at home after drawing their final group matches to top their respective tables. Four-time winners Mazembe held local DR Congo rivals Vita Club to a goalless draw in Kinshasa to set up a clash with Algerian team ES Setif, who managed a 1-1 draw at Sfaxien but stayed a point behind the Tunisian club. The winner of the competition will represent the continent at the FIFA Club World Cup at the end of the year.

Match of the week
CS Sfaxien 1-1 ES Setif
Although coach Philippe Troussier’s winning run in the Champions League with Tunisian club CS Sfaxien came to an end, the Frenchman will no doubt be happy with the draw as it kept the home side in first place with 11 points – one more than Setif. The visitors should have taken the lead shortly after the break, but Akram Djahnit saw his penalty saved by Rami Jridi. Setif were finally rewarded for their enterprising play in the 64th minute though when Benjamin Ze Ondo scored from a free-kick. The Gabonese international was somewhat lucky as his shot took a deflection off the wall before beating the goalkeeper. Sfaxien then pushed forward in search of an equaliser, but had to wait until a few minutes from the end when Maher Hannachi was brought down in the area. Ali Maaloul saw his spot kick saved by Abderraouf Belhani, but the Sfaxien captain was on hand to push the rebound over the line to give his side a share of the spoils and first place in the group.
Other matches
Mazembe, who had won their previous five Champions League matches this season in Kinshasa, dominated proceedings and hit the post twice in the dying moments. Goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba also pulled off a string of remarkable saves to deny the Vita forwards, and Mpela Kimwaki cleared off the line once, when the DR Congo international was beaten. The draw sees Mazembe finish in first place with 11 points, ahead of their rivals on head-to-head results. In Khartoum, five-time winners of the competition, Zamalek, ended their campaign as they began it – with a defeat. The White Knights went down 2-1 to Al Hilal and finished bottom of Group A with just four points. Sudanese international Bakri Abdelgadir was the match-winner for his side as he set up Mohamed Bashir’s opening goal in the first half before scoring a late winner with seven minutes to go. In between Mostafa Fathi levelled matters for Zamalek. Al Hilal finished third behind the two clubs from the DR Congo on seven points.
In Rades, Esperance moved to third in Group A on seven points with a 1-0 victory over visiting Al Ahly Benghazi, who finished on four points. In an entertaining first half both sides created several chances, with Daouda Camara and Fousseny Coulibaly coming close for the home side. Esperance, who have made it to four semi-finals in a row prior to this year, scored the only goal of the game with 20 minutes to go when Seifeddine Jerbi converted from the spot after Iheb Mbarki was brought down by El Taib El Muttasem-Ballah.
Player of the week
Home side Sfaxien headed the group going into their match and only needed to avoid defeat to hold onto that place, but with just a few minutes remaining, the Tunisians found themselves a goal behind. They were then awarded a penalty and captain Ali Maaloul stepped up to take on the responsibility from the spot. Although his first shot was saved, the Tunisian international kept his cool n the rebound to score the vital equaliser.
The stat
8 – The number of years CS Sfaxien fans have had to wait to see their team make it to the semi-finals of the Champions League. Their progress into the round of the last four should not come as a surprise though as the Tunisian club have made it out of the group stage on all three occasions that they have participated in the competition.
What they said
“We played on asphalt, not grass, and that affected the player’s performance during the game. We also suffered from wrong decisions by the referee,” Zamalek coach Hossam Hassan upset after his side lost their final group match at Al Hilal 2-1.
Have your say
Can ES Setif become the first Algerian winners of the show-piece event of African club football since JS Kabylie, who won the Champions Cup in 1990?

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