Zesco breach Marreikh fortress

ZESCO United of Zambia sprang back into contention for an African Champions League semifinals slot with a shock 3-2 triumph over Al-Merreikh in Sudan at the weekend.

ZESCO United of Zambia sprang back into contention for an African Champions League semifinals slot with a shock 3-2 triumph over Al-Merreikh in Sudan at the weekend.

Jonas Sahuwaha, who failed to score in eight previous 2009 Champions League matches, bagged a first-half hat trick as under-strength Zesco became only the second club to defeat Merreikh at their Omdurman fortress in the competition.

Dioko Kaluyituka also claimed a hat trick as former champions Tout Puissant Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo overwhelmed Monomotapa of Zimbabwe 5-0 in Lubumbashi.

Al-Hilal of Sudan scored twice in the second half to overcome Kano Pillars of Nigeria 2-0 in Omdurman and Heartland of Nigeria outplayed Etoile Sahel of Tunisia 3-0 in Owerri in other group games.

With the mini-leagues at the halfway stage, Hilal top Group A with seven points, Kano and Zesco have four each and big-spending Merreikh are staring elimination with just one.

Mazembe and Heartland have six each and Etoile, the other former champions among the eight survivors, and Monomotapa three each in Group B where the six fixtures have resulted in home victories. Zesco, the first Zambian club to make the pool phase since its introduction 12 years ago, twice led by two goals before recent Moroccan signing Karim Eddafi scored 13 minutes from full time to trigger a tense climax.

Merreikh also bought Nigerian strikers Stephen Worgu, leading 2008 Champions League scorer with 13 goals, and Kelechi Osunwa as they seek to become the first Sudanese winners of the premier African club competition.

Mohamed al-Tahir converted a disputed penalty soon after half time to give Hilal the lead in a top-of-the-table clash with Kano, shock conquerors of defending champions Al-Ahly of Egypt in the final qualifying round. Bashir Hamouda added a second midway through the second half.

Heartland brushed aside 2007 titleholders Etoile with surprising ease thanks to first-half goals from Uchenna Agba and Joshua Abaje, and Ukechukwu Nwadike late in the second half.

African rookies Monomotapa held Mazembe until Kaluyituka struck two minutes into first-half stoppage time, then crumbled in the second half with Mabi Mputu and Mulota Kabangu also on target for the Congolese "Crows" . - AFP

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