TP Mazembe grab dramatic win over Tunisia's Stade Gabesien
TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo beat Tunisia's Stade Gabesien 1-0 with a dramatic late goal in the first leg of their African Confederation Cup play-off in Lubumbashi on Sunday.
Striker Jonathan Bolingi scored from a corner in the 94th minute to give Mazembe a narrow advantage over their Tunisian opponents.
Bolingi is one of Mazembe's few Congolese starters in a line-up which includes Ghanaians, Ivorians, Malians, Tanzanians and Zambians.
TP Mazembe won the African Champions League for a fifth time last year, but their title defence lasted only two rounds before being eliminated by Wydad Casablanca of Morocco.
Defeat meant demotion to the second-tier Confederation Cup with seven other Champions League last-16 losers and if Mazembe defeat Gabesien over two legs they will go into the tournament's group phase.
Competing in a Caf competition for the first time, Stade reached the play-offs through an unbeaten six-match run, but none of their players are Tunisian national team first choices.
On Saturday, a dramatic rally brought Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa a 3-1 home victory over Medeama of Ghana.
Eric Kwakwa scored in the first minute for the visitors and they held that advantage in Pretoria until 10 minutes from time.
Colombian Leonardo Castro and Zimbabweans Khama Billiat and Cuthbert Malajila then scored within seven minutes to give the newly crowned South African champions success.
"I have never seen my team play so badly as they did during the first 45 minutes tonight," said Sundowns coach and former South Africa striker Pitso Mosimane.
"They did silly and unprofessional things that were not learnt from me. I barely recognised them as Sundowns footballers.
"But we eventually woke up and scored three goals for the third consecutive match in all competitions. It could have been more as the woodwork denied us twice.
"I wanted a clean sheet at home, but I am confident that we can score in Ghana provided we play properly," said Mosimane ahead of the return match on 18 May in Sekondi.
Sweden-born Medeama coach Tom Strand said tiredness cost his team dearly.
"We ran out of steam in the last 10 minutes and gave Sundowns a lot of space, which they used to good effect. Having watched replays, I felt their third goal was offside," said Strand.
Kwakwa struck with a hard shot from outside the box for Medeama, whose previous play-offs appearance two seasons ago ended in a penalty shootout loss to AC Leopards of Congo Brazzaville.
Castro levelled with a near-post header off a corner and Billiat scored through a cross that dipped behind goalkeeper Muntari Tagoe and landed in the net.
Malajila, used mainly off the bench during the successful domestic league campaign, completed the amazing comeback with a low shot from close range.
Young Africans of Tanzania also left it late to establish a 2-0 lead over Sagrada Esperanca of Angola at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
Simon Msuva broke the deadlock on 71 minutes and Matheo Anthony scored a potentially crucial second goal a minute into stoppage time.
'Yanga' are hoping to become the first Tanzanian club to win a Confederation Cup play-off and qualify for the group stage.
Ramadan Ajab pounced on a clearance to score after 33 minutes in Omdurman and give Al Merrikh of Sudan a 1-0 win over Kawkab Marrakech of Morocco.
The matches between Stade Malien of Mali and FUS Rabat of Morocco, and Mouloudia Bejaia of Algeria and Esperance of Tunisia all ended goalless.
On Friday, it was also 0-0 between Al Ahly Tripoli of Libya and Misr Elmaqasah of Egypt, while Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia began their title defence with a 2-0 home win over Mounana of Gabon.
The second leg matches will be played between 17-18 May.