Following two goalless draws, Mazembe team triumphed 2-0 against Egyptians Smouha in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria to top Group A. Zambian Rainford Kalaba ended a 220-minute Mazembe goal drought by putting the Congolese Ravens ahead close to half-time and a late strike from Ghanaian Daniel Nii Adjei sealed success.
USM edged fellow Algerians Mouloudia El Eulma 2-1 in Algiers with Kaddour Beldjilali and Mohamed Seguer giving the hosts a two-goal advantage that was halved before half-time by Nathir Korichi. Four-time African champions Mazembe climbed from third place to first, one point ahead of Sudanese Al Hilal, who are away to Moroccans Moghreb Tetouan Sunday.
Co-title favourites with Setif this season, Mazembe were desperate for a victory in Egypt after being held at home by Hilal and away by Tetouan. Smouha faced the Congolese having won all four qualifying and group home games, and with a new coach in Mohamed Youssef, who steered Egyptians Al Ahly to the 2013 Champions League title.
However, after wasting several scoring chances, Smouha fell behind when Malian Adama Traore set up Zambia captain Kalaba. Traore was also the architect of the second Mazembe goal with a pass to Adjei, who punished slack defending to fire past goalkeeper Mahdy Soliman.
Egyptian Ayman El Sayed was red-carded three minutes from time after a dive resulted in a second caution. USM began impressively in the top-versus-bottom clash against Eulma and Mohamed Bellaili assists allowed Beldjilali and Seguer to score.
But Eulma, recently relegated to the Algerian second division, recovered and Korichi reduced arrears five minutes before half-time to set up a tense second half. Setif host Sudanese Al Merrikh late Saturday in a clash between clubs who won and lost in the opening two matchdays.