MC El Eulma 0-1 ES Setif
After being stunned at home by USM Alger in their opening Group B match the pressure was on ES Setif to deliver the goods at fellow Algerians El Eulma, who are campaigning in a league below the defending champions. Surprisingly the home side made the early play, putting pressure on their more experienced rivals. They could not convert any of their chances though, and Setif, who drew their two away matches in the knock-out stages, stunned the home fans with the winning goal deep in second half injury time when Eulma goalkeeper Tarek Mahsas palmed a ball into the back of his own net following a goalmouth scramble from a corner. Setif coach Kheireddine Madoui said that it had not been easy. “We weren’t at our best but we were intelligent. We allowed them space, but in the end the game was fairly equal. We were definitely lucky with the goal, but we did not have any luck in our first game.”
The other Group B game saw the two victorious teams from the first round – USM Alger and El Merreikh – face each other in Algiers, with the home side dominating proceedings in the beginning. Youcef Belaili came close to creating the opening goal, but Hamzi Koudri missed from close range. Belaili himself did better early in the second half with the only goal of the game. Merreikh introduced Francis Coffie and Augustine Okrah late in the second half and they immediately took charge of the game. The visitors thought they had equalised three minutes from time, but the assistant referee ruled the ball had crossed the line from a corner before being headed home by Sharaf El Din. The 1-0 win leaves USM at the top of the group with six points, while Merreikh and Setif have three. Eulma are bottom without a point.
In Group A, Egyptian club Smouha were beaten 2-0 at Al Hilal, for whom Nasr Eldin Omar and Nazar Hamid scored. The Sudanese club top the group with four points ahead of Smouha, who are a point behind. TB Mazembe, who were surprisingly held to a goalless draw at home by Hilal in their opening match, played to another 0-0 draw – this time at Moghreb Tetouan, who have just a single point from their two opening matches. Mazembe coach Patrice Carteron, who rang in the changes and brought in five new faces into the starting line-up, said the fact that so many of their players are foreign internationals made it more difficult. “When they come back from international duty, they take time to adjust again. But we still have two home matches. It is a very tight group and will only be decided at the end. But I think we can still take one of the top two places to advance.”
Player of the week
USM Alger maintained their 100 per cent record in the group stage with a 1-0 victory at home against Sudanese visitors Al Merreikh. The only goal of the game was scored by 23-year-old striker Youcef Belaili, who found the back to the net seven minutes after the restart. The Algerian international joined USM from Tunisian club Esperance last year and has since established himself as an important member of his new team.
4 – The number of consecutive matches that the lone Egyptian representatives left in the competition, Smouha, have lost on the road. The Blue Wave lost their three matches in the knock-out stage 1-0 (against Al Ahly Tripoli and Enyimba and AC Leopards). They were then beaten 2-0 on the weekend by Al Hilal.
What they said
“We expected a tough match, but I think we deserved our victory. It is still early to talk about qualifying, but we are on the right track and can't expect better than two wins for a start.” USM Alger goalkeeper Lamine Zemmamouche.
Have your say
Can MC El Eulma become only the second club in the history of the competition to escape the group phase despite losing their two opening matches? The only club that has – so far – managed that, is USM Alger, who lost against AS Aviacao and Esperance Tunis in 2003, but still went through to the semi-finals.