African giants reach CAF Champions League last eight


Two clubs from Egypt, one from Tunisia, four from West Africa and one from South Africa comprise the eight African soccer giants which are ready to battle it out for the 2013 CAF  Champions League title. The notable absence of former champions TP Mazembe from the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC), who failed to join the last eight after a dramatic home return-leg miss of two penalties was surprising, the greatest shock and heartbreak of the return-leg showdowns was that of the Ethiopian side St. George, who crashed out of the tournament at the brink of a historic group stage qualification with just two minutes remaining.
Seven-time defending champions Al Ahly SC of Egypt booked a  place after a 2-1 return leg home victory over CA Bizertin of Tunisia. Mohamed Barakat and Emad Moteab scored the two second half goals to help their side win behind closed doors. The 2012 Confederation Cup champions  Léopards de Dolìsìé of the Republic of the Congo were beaten 3-1 away by Algerian side Entente Sportive de Sétif, and with the aggregate result standing at 4-4, the visitors made it through after a decisive 5-4 penalty shootout victory. The South African champions Orlando Pirates joined the last eight after a 3-2 aggregate victory over former champions TP Mazembe. To everybody’s surprise and dismay, Mazembe failed to convert two penalties they were awarded, thus their lame 1-0 home victory could hardly offset the Pirates first-leg 3-1 home victory. Coton Sport of Cameroon is back onto the big stage after a 3-0 aggregate victory over Malian champions Stade Malian. The 2011 champions, Tunisian side Esperance Sportive de Tunis, won 1-0 at home for an aggregate 1-0 victory over Algerians JSM Béjaïa, thanks to a Khalil Chammam winner from a second half penalty.
Séwé Sport de San Pédro of Cote d’Ivoire joined the last eight on the away-goal rule. The ‘Elephants’ sole representative in the tournament, San Pedro drew 1-1 in their first leg away fixture, and secured a place in the last eight by managing a goalless draw at home against FUS de Rabat of Morocco. Though Zamalek is a veteran of the African Championship campaigns, few expected them to overcome their first leg 1-1 home draw and come away victorious after a last minute 2-2 draw in Addis Ababa to secure a place. The visitors went on the attack and took the lead within the first two minutes, but midfielder Shimeles Bekele equalized 13 minutes later and the Saints decisively took the lead two minutes before the break with a strike from the Ugandan international defender Isaac Isinde. The Easter celebrations had all but begun for the fans when the Burkinabé Abdoulaye Cissé rose to head in his second goal for the equalizer from a cross, stunning the home fans and sending them into utter shock and eventual heartbreak. Just two minutes before the final whistle, the Saints’ dream of an historic Champions League group stage qualification spot came to a sad ending, with the team relegated to joining the last sixteen of the Confederation Cup.