African Champions League: Holders Esperance win their first group match

Caf Champions League trophy
The African Champions League trophy

Holders Esperance and former winners TP Mazembe and Mamelodi Sundowns produced victories on Saturday in the opening group matches of this season's African Champions League.

Anice Badri and Ibrahim Ouattara scored within the first 15 minutes for Esperance of Tunisia away to Raja Casablanca of Morocco and held firm to secure a 2-0 triumph.

Jackson Muleka scored two goals as Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo overpowered Egypt's Zamalek 3-0 in Lubumbashi.

Uruguayan Mauricio Affonso took advantage of a rare start for Sundowns by scoring within seven minutes of the kick-off to set up a 3-0 win over Petro Luanda of Angola in Pretoria.

The other matches, between USM Alger of Algeria and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco in Blida and Primeiro Agosto of Angola and Zesco United of Zambia in Luanda, ended in a 1-1 draws.

On Friday, there were home wins for Etoile Sahel of Tunisia, Al Hilal of Sudan and JS Kabylie of Algeria over Al Ahly of Egypt, Platinum of Zimbabwe and V Club of DR Congo respectively.

A whirlwind start by Esperance, seeking a record third straight Champions League title, caught Raja Casablanca cold on Saturday night with a 2-0 win.

Victory took Esperance to first place in Group D - considered the strongest of the four - on goal difference from JS Kabylie ahead of a top-of-the-table clash in Tunisia this Friday.

TP Mazembe, who won the last of five Champions League titles in 2015, followed up 80th birthday celebrations this week by dominating Zamalek, who have also been champions five times.

Mazembe's Jackson Muleka relished having so much unexpected space to finish crosses while veteran Tresor Mputu struck with a superbly placed shot.

The convincing win shot Mazembe to the top of Group A with three points, Zesco and Primeiro have one each and Zamalek none.

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane had said in pre-match interviews that he feared the physicality of Petro Luanda, who lost a 2001 semi-final between the clubs.

But his concerns proved unfounded as headed goals from Affonso and Motjeka Madisha had the South African side two goals up ahead inside 29 minutes.

Sphelele Mkhulise completed an easier than expected victory and lifted Sundowns to the top of Group C, two points above two-time champions Wydad and USM Alger.

Abdelkrim Zouari gave USMAlger a fifth-minute lead which they retained until one minute from time when Wydad Casablanca's Badie Aouk darted unnoticed into the box and scored a soft equaliser.

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