African Champions League: Big clubs survive scares to reach group phase

Esperance
The 2018 African champions Esperance, who played in this months' Fifa Club World Cup, will be in the Champions League draw on 28 December

Record eight-times winners Al Ahly of Egypt booked their place in the group phase of this season's African Champions League, despite a defeat in the second leg of their tie away to Ethiopia's Jimma Aba Jifar.

Ahly, who won the first leg in Egypt 2-0, fell to a shock 1-0 defeat in Addis Ababa on Sunday but progressed 2-1 overall courtesy of their home victory.

Ivorian Didier Lebri put Jimma head in first-half stoppage time, leaving Ahly to experience some anxious moments before securing a last-16 place.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Guinean club Horoya AC staged one of the greatest African club comebacks to defeat Libyan visitors Al Nasr 6-2 in Conakry - to secure a 6-5 aggregate win.

Trailing by three goals after the first leg of the round-of-30 tie, the west Africans took advantage of rivals who were reduced to 10 men by a red card to build a 5-1 second leg lead.

But with a remarkable triumph just minutes away, Horoya conceded a second goal and Nasr edged in front on away goals with the tie deadlocked at 5-5 on aggregate.

As the match moved into stoppage time, there was one last twist with Boniface Haba scoring a tie-clinching sixth goal for Horoya.

Horoya president Antonio Souare reacted to the stunning comeback by telling a local TV channel: "Our goal is to reach the Champions League semi-finals this season."

Last season, Horoya got to the quarter-finals at the expense of 2016 champions Mamelodi Sundowns from South Africa before being eliminated by Egyptian giants Al Ahly.

DR Congo's AS Vita Club were held 1-1 by Bantu in Lesotho, but advanced 5-2 on aggregate having won their home leg 4-1.

Simba SC are back in the group phase after a 15-year absence thanks to a dramatic 3-1 triumph over Zambian visitors Nkana in Dar es Salaam.

With the tie deadlocked at 3-3 on aggregate and a penalty shootout looming, Zambian Clatous Chama scored the decisive third goal on 88 minutes against his compatriots.

Other teams to progress on Sunday, were Club Africain of Tunisia, Ivory Coast's ASEC Mimosas and JS Saoura of Algeria.

On Saturday, Wydad Casablanca, TP Mazembe and Orlando Pirates also survived scares before progressing to the group phase of this season's competition.

Wydad Casablanca of Morocco needed away goals to survive after losing 3-1 at Senegalese club ASC Diaraf, who lost the round-of-30 first leg 2-0 in Casablanca.

After the Moroccans fell two goals behind in Dakar, Mohamed Ounnajem converted a Wydad penalty before Diaraf scored again a minute from time.

Five-time champions TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo equalised through veteran Tresor Mputu to draw 1-1 at Zesco United of Zambia and progress 2-1 on aggregate.

Orlando Pirates of South Africa, who had the toughest task after only drawing 0-0 at home to African Stars of Namibia last weekend, won the return match 1-0 on an artificial pitch.

Zambian Justin Shonga atoned for squandering several first-leg chances by scoring the crucial goal after 55 minutes in Windhoek.

Mamelodi Sundowns, the other South African contenders, outclassed Al Ahly Benghazi of Libya 4-0 in Pretoria after a goalless first encounter.

Uruguayan Gaston Sirino, Liberian Anthony Laffor and Venezuelan Jose Meza scored for Sundowns and Walid Omar deflected a shot from New Zealander Jeremy Brockie into his net.

Sikiru Alimi was the two-goal star as Lobi Stars of Nigeria squeezed through on away goals at the expense of Kenya's Gor Mahia in Enugu..

Alimi scored after 79 and 88 minutes to earn Stars a dramatic 2-0 second-leg win with the tie ending 3-3 on aggregate.

Lobi reached the group phase in their only previous Champions League appearance in 2000 while Gor were hoping to become the first qualifiers from Kenya.

Ismaily of Egypt lost 2-1 away to Cameroonian side Coton Sport, but advanced 3-2 overall as they seek to become African champions 49 years after achieving the feat for the only time.

The 16 survivors, including holders Esperance of Tunisia, will be split into four groups when the draw is made on 28 December.

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