North Africans rule the roost in CAF Champions League
USM Alger, Libya's Al Ahli Tripoli, Etoile du Sahel and Zanaco of Zambia all kept on course for the quarter-finals of the CAF Champions League with positive results on Wednesday, but the classic clash between Esperance and holders Mamelodi Sundowns ended goalless.
French-born defender Reda Bellahcene scored one and set up the other for Abderrahmane Meziane Bentahar as USM Alger beat last year's runners-up Zamalek 2-0 to go top of Group B. The victory in Algiers puts USMA on seven points, ahead on goal-difference from Al Ahli Tripoli, forced to come from 2-1 down to beat CAPS United 4-2 for a second successive time.
The match played in Sfax, Tunisia was a free-flowing affair with little regard for defence, and might have produced a half-dozen goals in a frenetic first half. Saleh Al Taher scored first and grabbed an equaliser straight after half-time before Mohamed Al Ghanodi and Muaid Ellafi finished off the Zimbabwean challenge, leaving CAPS floundering at the bottom of the standings.
Egypt's Zamalek are still in the race with five points.
Etoile du Sahel's 1-1 draw at Al Hilal in Sudan means they are one of only four unbeaten sides left of the 16 competing the group phase. Al Hilal are among the others, but after four successive draws sit bottom of Group A.
Etoile are top with a four-point margin after a dramatic finish in their game in Khartoum. Rami Bedoui, long a feature of Etoile's continental club competition campaigns, looked to have settled matters in favour of the Tunisians with just four minutes left, only for Mohamed Bashit to equalise for the hosts in stoppage-time.
Zanaco top Group D after three wins and a draw. Their latest success came away in Garoua, where Saith Sakala snatched an injury-time winner to take them to 10 points and continue their status as the surprise package of the group phase. Defeat for the Cameroon club means they are the first side mathematically eliminated, having lost all four games.
Esperance are also still unbeaten and kept up their three-point lead over Sundowns in Group C after an intriguing encounter at the Rades Stadium. The visitors squandered the only real chance of the game as they failed to take advantage of a defensive slip in the first half of a game that produced no other clear goalscoring chances, but remained a keenly contested encounter.
Sundowns are back on track for the quarter-finals after a precious away point, having lost earlier in the month at home in South Africa to Esperance.
There was just one CAF Confederation Cup tie which saw CS Sfaxien come back to draw 1-1 at Platinum Stars of South Africa and retain the leadership of their group.