Vita, Zamalek in clash of former African champions

File photo of the Kinshasa stadium in DR Congo during a CAF Champions League game on April 8, 2012.  By Junior D. Kannah (AFP/File)

File photo of the Kinshasa stadium in DR Congo during a CAF Champions League game on April 8, 2012. By Junior D. Kannah (AFP/File)






JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – At least one former CAF Champions League title-holder will fall by the wayside this weekend when Vita Club of Democratic Republic of Congo host Zamalek of Egypt in the round-of-32 highlight.

There are nine winners of the premier African club competition, three winners of the second-tier CAF Confederation Cup and two winners of the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup among the teams in second-leg action.

Zamalek, who take a smaller-than-expected 1-0 lead to Kinshasa, have won the Champions League five times, a record bettered only by Cairo neighbours and title-holders Al-Ahly with seven victories.

Vita conquered Africa in 1973, but took a five-goal pounding from JS Kabylie of Algeria when they reached the final again eight years later, and TP Mazembe have become the strongest DR Congo challengers in recent seasons.

But a capacity 80,000 crowd at the Martyrs Stadium in the Congolese capital could inspire Vita and intimidate Zamalek, whose last Champions League success came 11 years ago.

Both clubs boast in-form sharp-shooters with Agiti Etekiama of Vita and Ahmed Gaafar of Zamalek scoring three goals each this season, and the Egyptian reacted bizarrely to the first-leg winner against the Congolese in Alexandria.

Instead of a traditional celebration, Gaafar pulled off his shirt, flung it to the ground and signalled to Brazilian coach Jorvan Vieira that he wanted to be substituted.

His impassioned pleas were ignored, and may have been related to booing from Zamalek supporters after the striker failed to score in a one-on-one situation with Vita goalkeeper Nelson Lukong.

Union Douala, African champions in 1979 when Cameroon were a leading club power on the continent, look to be on the way out after a 3-0 hiding from FUS Rabat in Morocco three years ago.

Brahim El Bahri, Marwane Saadane and Mohamed Fouzair scored for the surprise 2010 Confederation Cup winners and it is difficult to imagine the Moroccans letting such a commanding lead slip in Atlantic port city Douala.

Asante Kotoko of Ghana, winners in 1970 and 1983, will expect to secure a last-16 place after forcing a goalless draw in Algeria against JSM Bejaia, who were accused by the west Africans of being bad hosts.

Complaints included being forced to travel by road instead of air from Algiers to Bejaia, no running water and heaters in some hotel rooms, and several attempts by the home team to change the kick-off time.

While Bejaia are in trouble, Algeria should have a presence in the final qualifying round as 1988 title-holders Entente Setif enjoy home advantage and should be able to overtake the 2-1 lead held by ASFA Yennenga of Burkina Faso.

Ahly, 2012 runners-up Esperance of Tunisia, four-time champions Mazembe and 1995 winners Orlando Pirates of South Africa are in similar positions having established one-goal away advantages.

Nairobi-based Tusker trail Ahly 2-1 and appear doomed as 13 previous attempts by Kenyan sides to win a Champions League game in Egypt have all ended in failure.

Esperance, Mazembe and Pirates won 1-0 at Primeiro Agosto of Angola, Mochudi Centre Chiefs of Botswana and Zanaco of Zambia respectively and it would be a shock if any of the former champions failed to progress.


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