Cornered Leopards fight for CAF Confederation Cup survival
A trio of cornered Leopards football teams must fight for CAF Confederation Cup survival this weekend when the second round qualifiers resume. AC Leopards from Congo Brazzaville are best-placed to reach the mid-year play-offs in the second-tier Orange CAF Confederation Cup club competition after restricting Nigerian hosts Heartland to a 3-2 first-leg victory.
The Congolese led, trailed and equalised in West Africa before striker Osas Okoro snatched the winning goal 10 minutes from time to give the 1988 CAF Champions Cup runners-up a precarious advantage. Leopards are based in Western city Dolisie and caused the major shock of the Confederation Cup this year by winning 2-0 at 2007 and 2008 title-holders CS Sfaxien of Tunisia in the previous round after losing at home.
Black Leopards of South Africa also have home advantage over Nigerian rivals, but their task is more difficult as they trail Warri Wolves 3-1 after the first encounter two weeks ago. Teenager Augustine Amutu, who started this year as a lower-league footballer, was the two-goal Warri star and Gift Atulewa also hit the target after Raymond Monama gave the visitors the lead mid-way through the first half. Leopards have moved the second leg from north-eastern town Giyani to regional capital Polokwane, believing the bigger pitch will aid a bid to make Warri their third victims after Motor Action of Zimbabwe and Lupopo of DR Congo.
Royal Leopard of Swaziland, whose squad is composed entirely of serving policemen, have the trickiest mission as they trail 2011 Confederation Cup runners-up Club Africain 1-0 ahead of a long journey north to Tunisia.
Chadian Ezechiel Ndouassel scored an early winner in the tiny southern African kingdom and it is hard to imagine the experienced international campaigners from Tunis slipping up at home. Leopard warmed up by trouncing relegated Hellenic 6-0 in the domestic league at the weekend, but have found goals much harder to come by in Africa, with just four from five outings. Club Africain are among three former African champions in action and the others -- Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast , face contrasting situations.
Wydad are all but through to the next phase after establishing a 3-0 home lead over Malians Real Bamako via goals from Yassine Lakhal, Said Fettah and Younes Houassi. But youthful ASEC will be up against it in Morocco, having been held 1-1 in Abidjan by visiting COD Meknes, who levelled through Adil Liouat after Desire Zahui broke the deadlock. Tanzanian clubs rarely make much progress in CAF competitions, but Simba seem set to become an exception as they visit Sudanese side Al Ahly Shendy holding a 3-0 lead.
Ugandan Emmanuel Okwi and Zambian Felix Sunzu have spearheaded the Simba drive, scoring three goals each as the Dar es Salaam outfit eliminated Kiyovu Sport of Rwanda and 2009 Confederation Cup runners-up Entente Setif of Algeria. InterClube of Angola, narrow losers to eventual champions Moghreb Fes of Morocco last year, should complete a miserable round for Sudan by ousting Al Amal Atabara after building a 4-1 lead at home, with Moco bagging a brace. CO Bamako of Mali snatched a late goal through Ismail Diarra when losing 3-1 to Egyptian petroleum company team ENPPI in Cairo, offering hope of a comeback with home advantage in the return leg.
HOSTS COUNTRIES OF NEXT CAF COMPETITIONSOrange CAN 2012
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