African Champions League kicks off with slow start for fancied sides

The African Champions League trophy
The African Champions League trophy

South African Premier League side Bidvest Wits suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Saint-Louisienne in the Indian Ocean island Reunion in the first leg of their African Champions League preliminary round fixture.

41-year-old Willy Visnelda converted a stoppage-time penalty to secure a famous victory.

Malawian Frank Mhango held off several challenges to put the Johannesburg club ahead just before half-time and Mauritian Andy Sophie headed the equaliser on the hour.

It was the second time Louisienne have embarrassed South African opponents having eliminated Mamelodi Sundowns, current holders of the Champions League trophy, 18 years ago.

Losing in Saint-Louis will put extra pressure on Wits ahead of their home leg next weekend as they look to progress in the tournament, especially with the increased prize money this year and the group phase being expanded from eight clubs to 16.

Louisienne were not the only Indian Ocean island club celebrating as CNaPS Sport of Madagascar edged Township Rollers of Botswana 2-1 in Antananarivo.

All the goals came during the second half with Njiva Rakotoharimalala scoring the 76th-minute winner after Francis Rafaralahy put the hosts ahead and Segolane Boy equalised.

Port Louis 2000 of Mauritius also had a good weekend, leaving Kenya with a 1-1 draw against Tusker to make the Islanders slight favourites to progress after the return match.

Shafik Batambuze, part of Uganda's Nations Cup squad in Gabon, put the Nairobi outfit ahead in the first half only for Ephrem Guikan to equalise just after half-time.

Cote d'Or of the Seychelles could not match the achievements of other islanders, losing 2-0 at home to Saint George of Ethiopia, whose goals came from Saladin Said.

On a busy weekend of first leg fixtures, Sierra Leone's FC Johansen made full use of home advantage as they held Morocco's FUS Rabat to a 1-1 draw in Freetown. Abdul Bangura headed home a cross from the left to put the hosts ahead, with Ahmed Jahouh grabbing an equaliser and an important away goal 15 minutes from time.

Elsewhere, former champions AS Vita Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo beat Royal Leopard in Swaziland by one-goal to nil on Saturday with several more fixtures scheduled for Sunday.

Significant prize fund

The African Champions League has an increase in total prize money this year, soaring from $5.7m (£4.6m) to $10m, a 119.30% increase.

The group phase - where the cash kicks in - has been expanded from eight to 16 clubs with participants guaranteed at least $550,000 (£440,000) each.

For clubs dreaming of going all the way and succeeding where Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa did last year, the "carrot" is a $2.5m (£2m) first prize.

Sundowns are among nine clubs given byes on merit into the round of 32, with record eight-time champions Al Ahly another.

Top Stories