More Champions League shocks as holders Ahly draw 0-0

Al Ahly celebrate winning the 2012 African Champions League

The holders Al Ahly of Egypt were held to a 0-0 draw away to CA Bizertin of Tunisia as the final qualifying round in the Caf Champions League opened with a host of surprising results.

Zamalek, TP Mazembe and Esperance all failed to win their first leg games, as 16 clubs chase eight places in the lucrative mini-league stage.

Bizertin only played Ahly after deciding not to carry out their threat to withdraw from the competition.

They were furious at being denied a place in the final phase of the national championship because of alleged match-fixing and a club official had said they were withdrawing from all football activities.

Bizertin spokesman Bassam Zouaoui later told the Tunisian news agency TAP that his club wanted to meet Ahly.

Home fans will be pleased the match went ahead - after they held the record seven-time champions to a goal-less draw. It sets them up well for the second leg in Egypt.

Elsewhere, Orlando Pirates of South Africa beat fellow former champions TP Mazembe 3-1 at home.

Pirates' Zambia striker Collins Mbesuma scored twice in the second half for the 1995 champions in Soweto, in a match which ended in controversy.

Onyekachi Okonkwo, a Champions League winner with Nigerian club Enyimba, got the Buccaneers off to a perfect start by scoring in the second minute. Patou Kabangu then levelled for Mazembe just before half-time. Mbesuma made it 2-1 to the hosts after the break, and was then involved in a contentious incident deep into stoppage time.

He was adjudged to have been fouled by goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba in the 92nd minute. Mbesuma stepped up and converted the spot-kick to give his side a useful 2-goal cushion ahead of the second leg.

Zamalek are now facing a fight for their Champions League survival after being held 1-1 by Saint George of Ethiopia in Cairo. Zamalek have won the Champions League five times, the Super Cup three times and the Cup Winners Cup once, making them the second most successful club in African football, but that pedigree was rarely evident at an empty Air Defence stadium.

Zamalek had to play behind closed doors after some of the crowd at the Gazelle match in Alexandria - limited to 3,000 because of the post-Arab Spring security concerns - ripped up seats without explanation.

And the match did not start well for the hosts. A careless midfield pass by Salah Soliman just past the hour mark allowed Saint George's Oumed Oukri to break clear. He held off a challenge before hitting a low drive past goalkeeper Abdelwahed Al-Sayed from outside the box. It was the first goal conceded by the White Knights in five Champions League matches this season.

Playing in an eerie atmosphere, Zamalek pressed for an equaliser and were rewarded eight minutes from time when Burkina Faso-born Abdoulaye Cisse finished off a Mohamed Ibrahim cross. Saint George, who host the return match in early May know a goalless draw will be enough to see them through.

Esperance of Tunisia, champions once and runners-up twice in the past three Champions League competitions, had a goal ruled out for offside as they forced a 0-0 draw at JSM Bejaia of Algeria. The Algerians were also held 0-0 at home by Asante Kotoko of Ghana in the previous round, but forced a score draw in the return match and advanced on the away-goal rule.

Elsewhere, Congolese side AC Leopards were 3-1 winners over Algeria's Entente Setif; Coton Sport of Cameroon beat Mali's Stade Malien 3-0 in Garoua and it finished 0-0 between Enugu Rangers of Nigeria and Angola's Recreativo Libolo.

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