Zesco United and Zamalek seize Champions League advantage

The African Champions League trophy
The African Champions League trophy

Zesco United of Zambia beat Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa 2-1 in Ndola on Saturday in the first leg of their African Champions League semi-final.

The Zambians will take a narrow advantage into the second leg, with the South Africans securing what could prove to be a crucial away goal.

On Friday, Zamalek took a big step towards the final with a 4-0 win over Wydad Casablanca in Alexandria - a result which ended John Toshack's reign as coach of the Moroccan club.

In only the second Champions League semi-final involving clubs from southern Africa, it was Zesco United who took the lead with two goals in two minutes from Jackson Mwanza.

He opened the scoring with a glancing header past Uganda goalkeeper Denis Onyango into the far corner of the net with 54 minutes on the clock.

Just a minute later, the 29-year-old then got the slightest of touches to a low Mwape Mwelwa free-kick, deflecting the ball wide of Onyango to send the home crowd into raptures.

Idris Mbombo wasted a great chance to give Zesco United a three-goal advantage four minutes from time when his close-range shot was comfortably saved.

Sundowns immediately counter-attacked and unmarked Zimbabwean Khama Billiat controlled a cross and scored with a low shot from inside the box that went in off a post to reduce Zesco's lead to 2-1.

On Friday, a wonder goal by Shikabala set up Zamalek of Egypt to thrash Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 4-0 in Alexandria, a match which proved to be John Toshack's last as coach of the Moroccan side.

Shikabala ran 56 metres before unleashing a shot from outside the box which flew into the bottom corner of the net at the Borg El Arab Stadium.

Shikabala - whose real name is Mahmoud Abdel-Razek - was outstanding in the first leg of the semi-final and received a standing ovation when substituted 11 minutes from time.

Aymen Hefny, Bassem Morsy and substitute Mostafa Fathy, from a penalty kick, were the other scorers for the five-time African champions, who led 2-0 at half-time.

Zamalek were unrecognisable from the team that failed to impress in the group stage of the premier African club football competition and lost at home and away against Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.

A blunder by Senegal-born Wydad centre-back Mourtada Fall led to the second Zamalek goal on 18 minutes.

He failed to control a back pass and Hefny gained possession before scoring with a low shot into the corner past goalkeeper Mohamed Akid.

Wydad, who won the competition 24 years ago, fell further behind four minutes into the second half after Shikabala floated a free-kick into the penalty area, with Morsy nodding into the net.

A disastrous night for Wydad was completed on 73 minutes when Akid fouled Fathy, who sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from the spot-kick as he tucked the ball into the corner.

It was a record Champions League semi-final winning margin for Zamalek, bettering the 3-0 home triumph over JET (now JS Kabylie) of Algeria in 1984.

The second leg of the semi-finals will be played on Saturday 24 September.

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