Al Merreikh 2-0 MC El Eulma
Although Al Merreikh have played in the showpiece event of African club football 17 times, they had yet to win a game in the group phase of the competition – that is, until Friday night. The visitors, who just a few weeks ago were relegated from the Algerian top flight despite being top scorers in the league, got off to a dreadful start when defender Adel Namane opened the scoring in the Group B match with an own goal in the sixth minute, while Bakri al-Madina added a second for Al Merreikh after the restart. The Sudanese international celebrated his goal by walking on his hands towards the stands where he was cheered by the home sides' fans. It got worse for the visitors as Namane was sent off on the hour for a second bookable offence. Merreikh coach Diego Garzitto, who won the competition with TP Mazembe in 2009, praised his players but said the side cold get better. “We dominated the whole game, but we were not efficient. We missed a lot of scoring opportunities.” His Eulma counterpart Cherif Hadjar, who took over the club after relegation, was upbeat despite the defeat. “I believe that we could have come home with a better result. It is a long road and there are still five matches to play."
In the other Group B game USM Alger stunned local rivals and defending champions ES Setif 2-1 in Setif. The home side had more of the opening spell, with Mohamed Benyettou missing a good opportunity early on, and Kaddour Beldjilali came close for USM just before the break. The Black and Red came out of the changing rooms more committed and Mohamed Seguer opened the scoring with a header on the hour. Captain Nacereddine Khoualed added a second in the 73rd minute before a late consolation from Ilyes Korbiaa.
In Group A, four-time winners TP Mazembe were held to a goalless draw by Al Hilal at home. Both goalkeepers – Robert Kidiaba and Loic Feudjou – were in excellent form as they denied their opponents time and again. In the late match, Egyptian club Smouha and visitors Moghreb Tetouan played a game of two vastly differing halves. The Moroccan club completely dominated proceedings before the break and scored twice from set-pieces in the opening 12 minutes. Mourtada Fall found the back of the net after a free-kick, while Ahmed Jahouh scored with a long range effort after Smouha failed to clear a corner. The second half saw the roles reversed as Salah Amin pulled one back after the hour mark, and Ivorian striker Hermann Kouao then scored twice within two minutes to give Smouha victory in their first-ever game in the Champions League group phase.
Player of the week
Côte d'Ivoire striker Kouao played in last year's CAF Confederations Cup final with Sewe Sports against Al Ahly. The 25-year-old then transferred to Egyptian club Smouha at the beginning of the year and on Sunday showed that the investment the Alexandria-based club made was money well spent. The forward, who has exceptional agility and skill, scored twice in two minutes to ensure a dramatic 3-2 comeback victory for his side.
4 – The number of times that a club has started the defence of it's title with a defeat in the group phase. Of those, only Al Ahly, who lost their opening match in Tunisia against CS Sfaxien in 2006, advanced from the group phase. The Red Devils went on to win back-to-back titles. Raja Casablanca (1998), ASEC Mimosas (1999) and Al Ahly (2002) all failed to progress.
What they said
"In the second half we were more sharp and dominated our opponent. The goal I scored gave me much pleasure, but it was just my job actually. To start the group stage with an away win is encouraging for the future. We now have the opportunity to consolidate our chances of qualifying," Algerian striker Mohamed Seguer, who scored the opening goal for USM Alger against his former club ES Setif.
Have your say
Can Al Hilal or Al Merreikh provide Sudanese football fans with a first finalist from their country since 1992? Al Hilal have twice (1987 and 1992) made it through to the final, but lost on both occasions.