BY APESIN ADEMOLA
Rangers blew their early lead in Sousse a week ago to return home empty-handed. The defeat – their first in the competition after seven matches in all – dragged the Flying Antelopes from top spot to third on the log.
Victory is all Rangers will seek today to improve their standing and shoot back to the heights of Group B, if current leaders CS Sfaxien fail to shine against Salitas in Ouagadougou.
After playing goalless with Salitas in the first leg, Sfaxien, one of the two Tunisian clubs in this group, top the table but are only one point ahead of both their compatriots Étoile and Rangers.
Group A features three Moroccan sides, two of them (RS Berkane and Hassania Agadir) setting the pace, while the third Raja Casablanca take the rear. Will leaders RS Berkane go soft on Raja to enable the reigning champions have a reason to cheer? The head-to-head clash with the Moroccan teams hold at Stade Municipal de Berkane with the home side having a bragging right after winning Casablanca 4-2 last week.
Berkane have acquired seven points in three matches as against four for Hassania Agadir and two each for Congo Republic’s AS Otôho and Raja.
Hassania Agadir are away to Congo Republic’s AS Otôho. In the first leg, Hassania Agadir won 2-1.
Group C remains open with Zambia’s Nkana leading by six points, while both ZESCO United of Zambia and Sudan’s Al-Hilal are two points adrift and Asante Kotoko of Ghana three points behind the leaders.
Ashante Kotoko receive Nkana in Kumasi and will recall their 1-3 loss in the first leg, while Al-Hilal, who played 1-1 in the reverse match, host ZESCO.
In Group D, log leaders Gor Mahia are away in Algeria against the team they have a two-point advantage over, while Petro de Luanda, who have the same four points with Hussein Dey, host Zamalek, who have been so disappointing. One of the powerhouses of African club football, Zamalek have posted only two draws in three matches to be at the foot of the table.
Gor Mahia had triumphed 2-0 over Hussein Dey, while Zamalek could only manage 1-1 at home to Petro de Luanda last Sunday.
Matchday 4 fixtures…
- Rangers (Nigeria) v Étoile du Sahel (Tunisia) (first leg Étoile du Sahel 2-1) (2pm)
- Salitas FC (Burkina Faso) v CS Sfaxien (Tunisia) (first leg 0-0) (5pm)
- AS Otôho (Congo Republic) v Hassania Agadir (Morocco) (first leg Hassania Agadir 2-1) (2pm)
- RS Berkane (Morocco) v Raja Casablanca (Morocco) (first leg RS Berkane 4-2) (8pm)
- Ashante Kotoko SC (Ghana) v Nkana (Zambia) (first leg Nkana 3-1) (2pm)
- Al-Hilal (Sudan) v ZESCO United (Zambia) (first leg 1-1) (5pm)
- Petro de Luanda (Angola) v Zamalek (Egypt) (first leg 1-1) (5pm)
- NA Hussein Dey (Algeria) v Gor Mahia (Kenya) (first leg Gor Mahia 2-0) (8pm)
Mean while, CS Constantine of Algeria came from behind twice at home to edge Ismaily of Egypt 3-2 Saturday and virtually clinch a CAF Champions League quarter-finals place.
The Algerians top Group C with 10 points, five-time trophy-holders TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo have seven, Club Africain of Tunisia four and Ismaily one.
Constantine, who reached the group phase of the elite African club competition for the first time this season, host Africain next Saturday and one point will seal a last-eight place.
Needing maximum points to have any hope of survival, Ismaily were ahead within 13 minutes through Emad Hamdy, whose own-goal last weekend gifted the Algerians a 1-1 draw in Egypt.
Nasreddine Zaalani became the first Constantine footballer to score twice in the competition this season when he equalised in first-half stoppage-time.
Namibian Benson Shilongo put Ismaily ahead again on 50 minutes only for final-quarter goals from Nassim Yeltou and Congolese Dylan Bahamboula to win the match for the home team.
Constantine hope to emulate Entente Setif, JS Kabylie and Mouloudia Alger and bring the most prized CAF club trophy back to Algeria after a four-year absence.
With Ismaily on the way out, the chances of a 15th Egyptian triumph in the Champions League rest with Group D leaders and record eight-time winners Al Ahly.