Johannesburg – Chabab Belouizdad of Algeria upset Zamalek of Egypt 1-0 and Raja Casablanca of Morocco hammered Vipers of Uganda 5-0 on Friday when the CAF Champions League group phase began.
Cameroonian Lionel Wamba converted a 57th-minute penalty to earn Belouizdad a significant Group D victory in Cairo over five-time champions Zamalek.
Hamza Khabba scored after only five minutes for Raja in Casablanca and Jamal Harkass, Mohamed Zrida, Yousri Bouzok and Roger Aholou also netted.
Four-time African champions Esperance of Tunisia, who host Al Merrikh of Sudan on Saturday, are the top seeds and favourites to win Group D.
The fight for the other ticket to the quarter-finals is expected to be between Zamalek and Belouizdad with Merrikh the outsiders.
By winning away Belouizdad have gained an important advantage as they strive to reach the last eight for the third consecutive season.
@VipersSC suffered a humiliating 5:0 defeat against Raja Casablanca in their debut campaign of the CAF Champions League.
The Venoms will be hoping to bounce back when they take on AC Horoya next weekend on 18th February. #TotalEnergiesCAFCL , #Vipers pic.twitter.com/XhWpuGlVW3
— Mwesezi Ronald @Live (@Mwesezironaldug) February 11, 2023
A hand-ball led to the penalty, and Wamba placed his kick into the right corner as goalkeeper Mohamed Awad dived in the opposite direction.
Houssem Mrezigue, voted the outstanding player after the African Nations Championship this month, stood out in midfield for Belouizdad.
Zamalek, whose recent domestic form has been poor, are desperate to do well after failing to get past the group stage in the last two Champions League competitions.
When they were crowned African champions for the fifth time in 2002, fierce Egyptian and African rivals Al Ahly had lifted the trophy three times.
But Ahly have won the Champions League seven times since while the best Zamalek have managed is finishing runners-up twice.
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Raja won the last of three Champions League titles in 1999 and have been overshadowed in Africa recently by fellow Casablanca club Wydad, the 2017 and 2022 Champions League winners.
While a five-goal triumph marks an impressive start, it is too soon to pass judgment as group debutants Vipers were outclassed having fallen two goals behind after only 11 minutes.
Democratic Republic of Congo-born goalkeeper Machumu Mudekereza – the only non-Ugandan in Vipers’ starting line-up – made early blunders that contributed to the first two goals.
The match then effectively ended as a contest on 38 minutes when Zrida fired a cross from Algerian Bouzok into the corner of the net.
After Bouzok claimed the fourth goal just before the hour, Togolese Aholou completed the rout on 71 minutes for the fifth most successful club in all CAF competitions with eight titles.
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