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Sunday, October 1, 2023

CAF Champions League: Botswana’s Jwaneng Galaxy shock Simba to wrap up qualifying rounds

Sixteen teams advanced on to the group stage to continue their 2021-22 CAF Champions League campaigns, but not before the final preliminary round featured a couple of stunning results that left a couple of African power clubs relegated to competing in the CAF Confederation Cup. Egyptian favorites Al Ahly and Zamalek advanced with ease past the champions of Niger and Kenya respectively while Morocco’s Wydad and Raja disposed of their competition to advance comfortably. However, TP Mazembe’s elimination completed a nightmare weekend for teams from the Democratic Republic of Congo while Tanzanian club Simba SC suffered the greatest shock of all by being eliminated by Botswana’s Jwaneng Galaxy.

With no competitive football taking place in Botswana since February of 2020, little was expected of Jwaneng Galaxy, especially after a 2-0 home defeat in the first leg of their matchup against Simba. However, composed goalkeeping from Botswana international Ezekiel Morake and two goals from Wendell Rudath saw Galaxy play a perfect second half to score three unanswered goals and stun Simba at the Benjamin Nkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam, winning 3-1 to advance on the away goals rule.

The warning signs were there for 5-time African champions TP Mazembe following an underwhelming 0-0 first leg performance against AmaZulu and manager Franck Dumas admitting the Ravens were not as strong this season. It was an enterprising AmaZulu side from South Africa who eliminated Mazembe from the CAFCL, getting the opening goal in Lubumbashi and using their savvy to defend and hold off a late charge from the hosts to draw 1-1 and advance via away goals. AmaZulu manager Benni McCarthy predicted big things from last season’s DStv Premiership runners-up in their maiden CAFCL campaign, and the team delivered to sound off a warning signal to the rest of African football.

For most of the favorites, advancement was comfortably achieved. Al Ahly faced little threat from Niger’s USGN with Afsha’s double paving the way in a 6-1 thrashing at Al Salam Stadium in Cairo and Zamalek punished poor defending from Kenyan champions Tusker to march on for a 4-0 win. Ghana’s Hearts of Oak and their supporters had high hopes to complete an upset with a one-goal lead going into their second leg matchup against Wydad in Casablanca, but the Moroccan champions overwhelmed the Phobians with an early onslaught to stomp their way to a decisive beatdown.

Algerian representatives CR Belouizdad and ES Sétif did well to bounce back from first leg defeats to upstage ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast and Mauritania’s FC Nouadhibou respectively and Guinean champions Horoya moved on past Stade Malien to make it two seasons in a row they have qualified for the CAFCL group stage. All the scores are below followed by plenty of highlights from the weekend’s matchups.

Zamalek (Egypt) 4-0 (5-0 aggregate) Tusker FC (Kenya)

ZANACO (Zambia) 2-1 (2-4) Al-Merrikh (Sudan)

Royal Leopards (Eswatini) 1-0 (2-3) Sagrada Esperança (Angola)

Étoile du Sahel (Tunisia) 4-0 (5-1) APR (Rwanda)

TP Mazembe (DRC) 1-1 (1-1 advance via away goals) AmaZulu (South Africa)

Petro Atlético (Angola) 2-0 (4-2) AS Otohô (Rep. of Congo)

Al Ahly (Egypt) 6-1 (7-2) USGN (Niger)

Raja Casablanca (Morocco) 2-0 (4-0) LPRC Oilers (Liberia)

Simba SC (Tanzania) 1-3 (3-3 advance via away goals) Jwaneng Galaxy (Botswana)

Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa) 2-0 (4-2) Maniema Union (DRC)

Espérance (Tunisia) 1-0 (1-0) Al-Ittihad (Libya)

Horoya AC (Guinea) 2-1 (3-1) Stade Malien (Mali)

ES Sétif (Algeria) 2-0 (3-3 advance via away goals) FC Nouadhibou (Mauritania)

Al-Hilal Omdurman (Sudan) 1-0 (2-1) Rivers United (Nigeria)

CR Belouizdad (Algeria) 2-0 (3-3 advance via away goals) ASEC Mimosas (Ivory Coast)

Wydad Casablanca (Morocco) 6-1 (6-2) Hearts of Oak (Ghana)

Simba SC 1-3 Jwaneng Galaxy (Extended Highlights)

Wydad Casablanca 6-1 Hearts of Oak

Al Ahly 6-1 USGN

Zamalek 4-0 Tusker FC