The different fortunes of Cairo giants Al Ahly and Zamalek was the notable narrative of this past weekend's CAF Champions League action.
Al Ahly put one foot in the group phase with their 2-0 away win over Equatorial Guinea's Cano Sport, but cross-city rivals Zamalek face potential elimination from Africa's top-tier continental competition after they succumbed 2-1 away to Senegalese side Generation Foot.
Zamalek gambled by resting several regulars, with one eye on their coming Super Cup match against Ahly, and the White Knights found themselves 2-0 down at Stade Lat-Dior in Thies after a brace from Foot's Mame Gueye. However, the 74th-minute strike from Mostafa Mohamed has given the Egyptian club a foothold in the tie ahead of the return game in Cairo on Sept. 29.
Zamalek hit the woodwork twice in Senegal, and perhaps deserved more for their efforts, but they are still left in a do-or-die position. New coach Milutin Sredojevic, nevertheless, promised to turn around the tie.
"We played against a strong team that won by taking the advantage of playing at home among its fans," the Serbian told ON Sport TV after the match, as per Ahram Online.
"We played to dominate the game but we had two faults to receive two goals. We have a big chance to reach the next round as we will restore four players in the return match at home."
"We will have the same advantages in the return match, and we will win because of playing at home among our fans. It will be an open game, and [Zamalek] will deploy the best strategy to beat them. Now we should concentrate on the Super Cup match and then will think about the second leg. We are determined to win the Super Cup title as well as to proceed in the Champions League."
The Super Cup, to be played this Friday, was also on the mind of Ahly coach Rene Weiler. In his first match in charge of the Red Devils, goals from Salah Mohsen and Walid Soliman secured a 2-0 win in Equatorial Guinea's capital Malabo.
"We are lucky to win through the substitutions which made a big difference, and beating Cano Sport is a good motivation for our players ahead of facing Zamalek," the Swiss coach told his club's official website, as per Ahram Online.
Sundowns win big, Enyimba held at home
The remainder of the ties across Africa produced few genuine upsets.
Heavyweights TP Mazembe, AS Vita and reigning champions Esperance de Tunis were held to away draws in their trips to Fosa Juniors, ASC Kara and Elect Sport respectively, but the trio will be confident of home victories and progression later this month.
The team most sure of a place in the group state draw is South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns, after racking up an emphatic 5-0 away win in the Seychelles over Cote d'Or, with goals from Tiyani Mabunda (two), Lyle Lakay, Sphelele Mkhulise and Wayne Arendse.
Nigeria's only remaining representative, Enyimba International, is in a tough spot after drawing 0-0 at home with Sudan's Al Hilal on Sunday. The People's Elephant face a testing return game in Omdurman, but they can at least take solace that only they can benefit from the away goals rule and a score draw in the second leg will be enough to advance.
CAF Champions League
First round, first leg matches
Saturday, Sept. 14
JS Kabylie (Algeria) 2-0 Horoya AC (Guinea)
AS Generation Foot (Senegal) 2-1 Zamalek (Egypt)
Cano Sport (Equatorial Guinea) 0-2 Al Ahly (Egypt)
Petro Luanda (Angola) 0-0 KCCA (Uganda)
Green Eagles (Zambia) 1-2 Primeiro de Agosto (Angola)
FC Platinum (Zimbabwe) 1-0 UD Songo (Mozambique)
Young Africans (Tanzania)1-1 Zesco United (Zambia)
Cote d'Or (Seychelles) 0-5 Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)
Sunday, Sept. 15
USM Alger (Algeria) 4-1 Gor Mahia (Kenya)
Al Nasr (Libya) 1-3 Raja Casablanca (Morocco)
Fosa Juniors (Madagascar) 0-0 TP Mazembe (DR Congo)
Elect Sport (Chad) 1-1 Esperance de Tunis (Tunisia)
Enyimba (Nigeria) 0-0 Al Hilal (Sudan)
Asante Kotoko (Ghana) 2-0 Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia)
ASC Kara (Togo) 0-0 AS Vita (DR Congo)
FC Nouadhibou (Mauritania) 0-2 Wydad Casablanca (Morocco)