Tunis: Esperance of Tunisia dropped an early hint that they will be among the strongest challengers for 2013 CAF Champions League title with a victory in Angola at the weekend. Midfielder Iheb Msakni, a brother of national team star Youssef, nodded in a free-kick just before half-time to earn the Blood and Gold a 1-0 last-32, first leg victory over army outfit Primeiro Agosto.
Few clubs leave Angola victorious in the CAF club competitions and the odds are now stacked in favour of Esperance advancing to a probable last-16 clash with Asante Kotoko of Ghana. The Tunisian side have reached the last three Champions League finals, losing 6-1 overall to TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo, edging Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 1-0 and failing 3-2 against Al-Ahly of Egypt.
Former midfielder Maher Kanzari coaches the Tunis team after Nabil Maaloul was named national coach last month when Sabri Trabelsi quit in the wake of Tunisia failing to make the 2013 Cup of Nations quarter-finals. CA Bizertin completed a good weekend for Tunisia in the premier African club competition by overpowering Zimbabwe visitors Dynamos in the second half for a 3-0 victory.
The floodgates opened four minutes after half-time when Ali Machani scored, Ahmed Harrane converted a spot kick just before the hour mark and Fakhreddine Jaziri completed the rout 20 minutes from time. Dynamos face another long, sad journey to Harare with the only consolation being that they still have a slender chance of survival, whereas last year they had none following a six-goal Tunis thrashing from Esperance.
The revival of Ethiopian football has spread to the club front with Saint George building a 2-0 lead over Djoliba of Mali in Addis Ababa thanks to goals from Yonatan Birhanu and Fistsum Gebremariam. Ethiopia competed at the Cup of Nations this year for the first time since 1982 and many of the squad play for the 'Saints', who have dominated domestic football for decades.
After scoring five times in a preliminary match last month, Mamadou Soro was substituted having failed to find the net for AFAD Djekanou of Ivory Coast in a surprise 1-0 home loss against Coton Sport from Cameroon. Alexis Kada scored the winner on 64 minutes in Abidjan for a Cameroonian side boasting a strong defence as they did not concede a goal in a preliminary-round win over the Ugandan Revenue Authority.
Recreativo Libolo of Angola fought back to overcome Al-Merreikh of Sudan 2-1 in Calulo south of Luanda with Senegalese Henri Camara scoring the winner 11 minutes before time. Ramadan Agab put vastly experienced CAF campaingers Merreikh ahead just before the break and Dario Cardosa levelled nine minutes into the second half of a lively game.
Moussa Coulibaly scored the winner as Stade Malien of Mali overcame Casa Sport of Senegal 2-1 in Dakar and the clash of Vital'O of Burundi and Enugu Rangers of Nigeria in Bujumbura ended goalless. Return matches are scheduled for April 5, 6 and 7 after a longer than usual three-week break caused by World Cup qualifying fixtures across Africa next weekend.