TP Mazembe and Al Hilal reach Champions League semi-finals

Entente Setif won the Champions League in 2014
Entente Setif won the Champions League in 2014

TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan's Al Hilal clinched the last two semi-final places in this year's African Champions League after a tense climax to Group A on Saturday.

Three clubs in the group, Mazembe, Hilal and Morocco's Moghreb Tetouan, began the final round of matches level on eight points.

A Mbwana Samata hat-trick helped TP Mazembe go through with a resounding 5-nil win over Moghreb Tetouan, and Al Hilal progressed with a 1-1 draw away to Smouha in Egypt.

Four-time champions Mazembe will now play the Group B runners up, Al Merrikh of Sudan in the semi-finals.

The Group B winners, USM Alger of Algeria, will face twice runners-up Al Hilal.

Making full use of home advantage in Lubumbashi, TP Mazembe were quick out of the blocks in their final Group A match against fellow hopefuls Moghreb Tetouan.

Tanzanian international Mbwana Samata struck his first goal on 12 minutes to give the hosts the lead.

Rainford Kalaba added a second on the half-hour mark, with Samata scoring his second in the 53rd minute.

Ivory Coast's Roger Assale made it 4-0 for Mazembe two minutes from time, with Samata completing his hat-trick in the 90th minute.

Despite the heavy defeat, Moghreb Tetouan could still have gone through if Al Hilal had lost their match away to Smouha in Egypt.

At half-time, Moghreb still had a chance because Al Hilal were 1-0 down after Smouha had taken the lead through a goal from Amr El Menoufy in the 21st minute.

But Hilal fought back and got their equaliser after 73 minutes through Nasreldin Al Shigail to secure their place in the last four.

While tension mounted ahead of the Group A finale, Group B was already settled before Friday's final fixtures, where leaders USM Alger of Algeria lost their first match of the group campaign.

USM's hopes of creating an African Champions League group points record were dashed after a 1-0 loss at Al-Merrikh of Sudan.

The Group B winners entered the game in Omdurman needing one point to overtake the 15-point record created and matched by Esperance of Tunisia.

But after five consecutive group victories, USM fell to a goal on 14 minutes from Ivorian Didier Libre.

USM will be away to the Group A runners-up. Merrikh will be at home to the Group A winners in the semi-final first legs later this month.

Defending champions Entente Setif ended a disappointing campaign by drawing 2-2 at home against another Algerian club, Mouloudia El-Eulma.

Setif managed just one victory in six matches to finish with five points - 10 less than USM and eight fewer than Merrikh.

Snatching a late draw earned Eulma their first point after five consecutive defeats, and left Costa do Sol of Mozambique with the unwanted record of being the only club to lose all six group games.

Nadir Korichi gave Eulma an early lead in Setif that was cancelled by El-Hedi Belameiri with a deflected shot just past the hour.

A strike from substitute Eudes Dagoulou nudged two-time champions Entente ahead 12 minutes from time only for Abdelmalek Abbes to equalise via a curling shot.

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