Confed Cup teams struggle to score as Sfaxien shine

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CS Sfaxien of Tunisia have begun the final qualifying round of the Confederation Cup with a 3-1 victory over Congolese side Diables Noirs, despite being reduced to ten men.

The result gives Sfaxien a useful first-leg lead as they bid to reach the play-offs against the Champions League last-16 losers. They were rare scorers on a quiet weekend featuring few goals elsewhere.

Sfaxien are the only club to successfully defend the Confederation Cup.

Diables Noirs are hoping to emulate compatriots AC Leopards, shock winners of the second-tier African club competition last season, and shook Sfaxien when Lorry Nkolo broke the deadlock with a goal midway through the first-half. Regular Sfaxien scorer Yassine Khenissi was red carded as half-time approached after receiving a second caution.

But Dutch coach Ruud Krol stirred the Tunisians during the break and Mohamed Ali Moncer equalised on 53 minutes, Ivorian Idrissa Kouyate scored the second goal and Taoufik Salhi converted a late penalty. Diables struck six goals at home in the previous round against Panthers from Equatorial Guinea, but penetrating the Sfaxien rearguard in Brazzaville is going to be considerably more difficult.

Former African champions Ismaily of Egypt - who were favoured to win their match away to Al-Ahly Shandy - could only draw 0-0 in neighbouring Sudan. Al Ahly Shandy reached the mini-league phase last year at the first attempt.

On a weekend where goals were hard to come by, another club finding the net were former African champions ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast. They hosted LLB Academic, the first Burundi team to get this far, with ASEC winning 1-0. Michel Mvondo was the match-winner for ASEC, who should have won by a much wider margin given their dominance. Academic goalkeeper Athanase Nyabenda retired injured during a hectic opening spell of Ivorian attacks and the Burundians came close to equalising soon after half-time when captain Youssouf Ndikumana rattled the crossbar.

US Bitam of Gabon, who scored a record 17 goals in a preliminary tie, were held to a 0-0 draw at USMA of Algiers.

It also finished goal-less between ENPPI of Egypt and SuperSport United of South Africa in Cairo. SuperSport United goalkeeper Ronwen Williams saved a stoppage-time penalty as his team maintained an unbeaten record after five matches in the competition this year.

FAR Rabat - who became the first African champions from Morocco in 1985 - were also held to a goal-less draw away to Azam of Tanzania. Mustapha Allaoui wasted a chance to put FAR ahead in Dar es Salaam when he had only the goalkeeper to beat and Azam came close later in the second half through John Bocco.

In the pick of the other ties, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco take on Liga Muculmana of Mozambique, whose 7-1 thrashing of Nigerian visitors Lobi Stars in Maputo was totally unexpected. Sonito scored four of those goals to be joint leading scorer in the Cup this season with five, having also been on target in a preliminary triumph over Gaborone United of Botswana.

Josimar is the other Mozambican sharp-shooter with three goals to his credit and it will be interesting to see how the duo fare at home against the usually tight Wydad defence. Wydad have a deadly marksman of their own in Ivorian import Boblay Anderson Allegne, whose three goals were instrumental in the ultimately comfortable passage past AS Douanes of Togo in the last round.

Etoile Sahel of Tunisia make the long journey from Mediterranean resort Sousse to Huambo in central Angola for a showdown with Recreativo Caala, who fired six unanswered goals past Malians US Bougouni to reach the second round.

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