The CAF Champions League group stage is back. The first matchday was done and dusted in all of two days. None of the matches ended goalless.
We tried to predict outcomes for all of them and we did not fare too badly. We also picked up 4 lessons from matchday 1.
1. Esperance is the Ghoul of Africa
The Bab Souika team likes to pride itself as the “ogre of Africa.” Can you blame them? Esperance Tunis has been formidable in the continent since the 90s.
The side played Raja Casablanca at the Mohamed V stadium and walked out with a win. I should add, there was no controversy accompanying the victory. It was achieved despite the fact that the side has lost 5 players – Belaili, Bguir, Kom, Chaalali, Ben Mohamed – from the title winning teams of last season and the one before.
2. Age is Just a Number
Tresor Mputu is 33 years old. Yassine Chikhaoui is 33 years old. Both made their names as part of legendary club squads in the late 2000s. They never quite went on to hit the heights. And I will admit I was concern to see them return to TP Mazembe and Etoile Sahel respectively.
None of that mattered yesterday. The duo played decisive roles in their respective team’s winning starts to the CAFCL group stage. In fact, each got a goal.
3. Home Advantage is a thing
It goes without saying that the home team always wins in the CAF Champions League. In fact 5 of the 8 matches ended in home team wins. This is why it was no surprise to see two unsettled teams struggle despite being hosts. And these were not Libyan teams.
The first was Etoile Sahel. The Sousse team is forced to play in Rades as their stadium undergoes renovation. The second was USM Alger. They played in Blida. The pitch is being fixed at the July 6 stadium – a second home venue for them.
4. When Teams Flatter to Deceive…
Earlier in the year, we were raving about Zamalek and Raja Casablanca. They were playing great football. We looked forward to their participation in the CAF Champions League group stage.
They ended up suffering the heaviest defeats of the round. Zamalek was well beaten in Lubumbashi. Meanwhile, Raja Casablanca was the only side to lose at home.
What lessons did you learn from matchday 1?