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CAF Champions League: Sundowns, North African powers consolidate top spots

Friday and Saturday’s matchups in the 2021-22 CAF Champions League group stage saw seven of the eight knockout round spots wrapped up with one more matchday yet to play. Read on for highlights and our full report from each group:

Group A

South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns did not have it easy with Brian Onyango’s 11th minute red card, but Masandawana scored twice through Peter Shalulile and a free kick from Teboho Mokoena in the opening thirty minutes before holding off Al-Hilal for a 4-2 victory in Sudan. Thapelo Morena’s double in the second half put the visitors out of reach for an excellent road victory.

In Cairo, Al Ahly were the listed visitors but hosted Sudan’s other team in the CAFCL, Al-Merrikh, for a 3-1 victory as Merrikh did not have a suitable stadium for CAF standards. It was a needed result for the defending champions, who had to respond after Percy Tau’s early strike was cancelled out by a leveler from Merrikh’s Ramadan Agab but found two goals in quick succession from Mohamed Sherif and Ahmed Abdelkader to secure three points.

Sundowns remain with first place clinched while Ahly will need a draw or victory at home against Al-Hilal on the final matchday to seal their spot.

Al-Merrikh (SDN) 1-3 Al Ahly (EGY)

Al-Hilal (SDN) 2-4 Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA)

Group B

All teams in Group B had plenty to play for but it was Moroccan champions Raja CA and Algeria’s ES Sétif who emerged with the top-2 spots secured. Hamid Ahadad’s early finish gave Raja a crucial early lead in Durban against AmaZulu and the reigning Botola Pro winners easily held off the South African’s impotent attack. Center back Ilias Haddad headed in the second for the visitors in the 76th minute.

Guinea’s Horoya AC gained plenty of momentum after surprising Raja 2-1 at home for their first group stage points last match, but suffered a meltdown at the worst time to lose 3-2 to Sétif in Algiers. Morlaye Sylla gave the visitors a 2-1 lead before 60 minutes, but then received two yellow cards in as many minutes to put his team at a numerical disadvantage twenty minutes later. Two goals from Riad Benayad, including the injury time winner, surged Les Aigles Noirs to victory.

Raja are in first place and will host Sétif on the final matchday with a win or draw clinching top spot. Sétif’s crucial victory seals a top-2 spot with the Algerian side holding the tiebreaker advantage over AmaZulu, who are three points back in third.

AmaZulu (RSA) 0-2 Raja CA (MAR)

ES Sétif (ALG) 3-2 Horoya AC (GUI)

Group C

There was little suspense in Group C with the only question being who will finish as the first-placed team between Tunisia’s Espérance and CR Belouizdad of Algeria. That answer will come on the final matchday as Espérance host CRB with both teams on eleven points. Espérance dispatched last placed side Jwaneng Galaxy of Botswana by a 3-0 score on the road in Francistown thanks to two goals from Kingsley Eduwo and one from the Blood and Gold’s other Nigerian attacker, Anayo Iwuala.

Struggling Tunisian side Étoile Sahel needed a road victory in Algeria against CRB to have any chance of advancing in a top-2 spot, and the hosts quickly put away any hopes in their 2-0 shutout. Sofiane Bouchar and Mohamed Belkhir scored in the opening twenty minutes to put the defending Algerian Ligue 1 Professionnelle champions out of reach. CRB will need to defeat Espérance in their final group stage match to earn first place.

Jwaneng Galaxy (BWA) 0-3 Espérance (TUN)

CR Belouizdad (ALG) 2-0 Étoile Sahel (TUN)

Group D

The top-2 teams in Group D were already decided heading into the fifth matchday, but Moroccan giants Wydad AC strengthened their bid for first place with a 2-1 win over Angola’s Sagrada in Luanda. A late rally with goals from Zouheir El Moutaraji and substitute Juvhel Tsoumou in the final ten minutes clinched a rare road victory for Morocco’s current top team.

Angola’s other team in the CAFCL, Petro de Luanda, have been the surprise of the competition but are unlikely to finish in first following their 0-0 home draw against Egypt’s Zamalek. The Egyptian visitors looked more likely to score in Luanda and now Petro will need to defeat Wydad on the final day in a hostile environment to improve on their second place position.

Sagrada (ANG) 1-2 Wydad AC (MAR)

Petro de Luanda (ANG) 0-0 Zamalek (EGY)

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