Sundowns, Esperance cruise in CAF Champs League openers

March day 1 of the CAF Champion League’s group stage wrapped up on Saturday night with AmaZulu falling to a narrow defeat away to Raja Casablanca, while continental heavyweights Esperance de Tunis and Zamalek had very different fates earlier in the day.

Usuthu, making their debut in the premier African club competition, put in a gritty performance against the Green Eagles – who are the reigning CAF Confederation Cup title holders – but ultimately succumbed 1-0 thanks to a strike midway through the second half from MohsineMoutaouali.

Saturday also featured a crushing 4-0 win for Esperance de Tunis over group stage debutants Jwaneng Galaxy of Botswana.

Elsewhere, Algeria’s ES Setif claimed a valuable 1-0 win in Conakry over Guinean side Horoya AC – with a goal early in the second half from Ahmed Kendouci – while the surprise result of the weekend came in Cairo where Zamalek were held 2-2 by Petro de Luanda.

The Angolan visitors established a stunning 2-0 lead in the first half with goals from Gleison and Vidinho, but the White Knights fought back for a share of the spoils, as Youssef Ibrahim Obama reduced the deficit and Mahmoud Hamdi, also known as El-Wensh, struck deep in injury time at the end of the game to level the score.

Friday’s action featured an impressive opening to Group D proceedings for Wydad Casablanca, who crushed Angola’s SagradaEsperanca 3-0 in Morocco thanks to goals from Achraf Dari, YahyaJabrane and Guy Mbenza.

South Africa’s MamelodiSundowns also got off to a fine start in Group A by defeating Al Hilal of Sudan 1-0 at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium while Group C’s north African derby between Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel and Algerian side CR Belouizdad ended in a goalless stalemate.

Matchday 2 will be played on February 18-19, and will feature the return of reigning African kings Al Ahly. The Egyptian giants’ Matchday 1 fixture against Al Merrikh was postponed to early next month due to their participation in the FIFA Club World Cup. –Backtxt

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