Expect the unexpected

Posted by Firdose Moonda

Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty ImagesAn unexpected first leg loss have put Mbwana Ally Samatta and TP Mazembe in a must-win situation against South African side Orlando Pirates.

Egypt's twin giants, Al-Ahly and Zamalek, Tunisia's Blood and Gold, Esperance, the DRC's pride and joy, TP Mazembe and the continental champions' sole representative at this stage of the CAF Champions League, Nigeria's Enugu Rangers, will all face must-win matches in their second leg second round qualifiers after unexpectedly poor results last weekend.

Zamalek and Rangers were held at home, Al-Ahly and Esperance away and TP Mazembe were beaten soundly by a South African side, Orlando Pirates, who were clear underdogs heading into the fixture.

Mazembe's was the most eventful of the weekend's matches. It began with a second minute goal from Onyekachi Okonkwo, an equaliser for the visitors before halftime courtesy of Patou Kabangu and a brace from Collins Mbesuma. The second of his goals came from a spot kick that was awarded after Mbesuma was brought down by Mazembe's keeper Robert Kidiaba.

The decision was controversial and the DRC officials were so angered by it that they reportedly punched the Swazi referee Smanga Nhleko in the tunnel. The repercussions of that act are yet to be discovered but what TP Mazembe do know is that they will have to score two unanswered goals at home to ensure their place in the main draw.

Pirates coach Roger de Sa has already identified a weakness in the DRC's outfit. "I don't think they are as solid at the back as going forward," he said and emphasised that Pirates could look to add to their goal tally in Lubumbashi in early May.

Both of Egypt's giants will also be on the hunt to find the back of the net. Al-Ahly saw out a dull encounter against Tunisian side CA Bizerten which was on the verge of being cancelled. Bizerten were denied a place in their national championship because of alleged match-fixing and have since suspended all football activities. But they decided to play the Champions League qualifier, which only 1,500 fans were permitted to attend.

They looked the likelier team to score, especially in the second half when they dominated possession and attacked. They were denied by Al-Ahly's keeper Sherif Ekramy twice in the last 15 minutes and will only need one goal in Cairo to advance.

Zamalek also need to score in Addis Ababa after Ethiopia's Saint George held their own in their 1-1 draw. They took the lead just after the hour mark when clumsy defending allowed Oumed Oukri to break clear and score. That goal was the first conceded by Zamalek in five Champions League matches. Zamalek equalised in the last eight minutes but if Saint George can simply hold on at home, the Egyptian side's Champions League journey will be over.

Esperance had a goal ruled off for offside in Algeria and will now need to score at home while ensuring the opposition do not breach their defence while Rangers will have to attack even harder in Angola if they hope to advance. They missed several chances, including one in the dying minutes of the game when Emeka Eze faced an open net but sent his effort wide. Recreativo showed guts in keeping the Nigerians at bay and will fancy themselves at home.

Ivorian champions Sewe Sports scored a crucial away goal against FUS Rabat thanks to Kevin Zougoula, who has been hailed as the best striker in the country's Ligue 1. The other two ties have seen clear favourites emerge. AC Leopards meteoric rise continued as they beat ES Setif 3-1 at home and Cameroon's Coton Sport overcame Stade Malien 3-0 in a typically bustling encounter.

First leg results:
Zamalek 1-1 Saint George
CA Bizerten 0-0 Al-Ahly
Orlando Pirates 3-1 TP Mazembe
Enugu Rangers 0-0 Recreativo do Libolo
JSM Bejaia 0-0 Esperance
FUS Rabat 1-1 Sewe Sport
Coton Sport 3-0 Stade Malien
AC Leopards 3-1 ES Setif

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