The eagerly awaited 2019/2020 CAF Champions League quarterfinals is now halfway done. The results of the first leg encounters were not shocking but were a little bit surprising, at least for us here at CAFCL Gazette.
Read on to find out the 4 things we learned from CAFCL quarterfinal first leg matches.
1. The 2-goal advantage
It was amusing that all the quarterfinal matches had a pattern. And it was not just that the home teams all won but they all managed to secure 2-goal leads heading to the second leg. We know African football is an entirely different thing and that these leads could be wiped out so easily.
But Zamalek, Al Ahly, Raja Casablanca and Wydad Casablanca are experienced in managing CAF interclub football knockout ties. Therefore, it is very tempting to pronounce a verdict that these 4 teams will be in the semifinal. This leads to conclusion number 2.
2. Morocco-Egypt affair
Will the semifinals feature only clubs from Morocco and Egypt? The 2 countries are “friends” so the contests would not be as heated as it is with the other North African countries.
I don’t think it was lost on anyone that 4 matches were played in only 2 stadiums. Al Ahly and Zamalek hosted Sundowns and Esperance respectively at Cairo Stadium. It was nice to see fans at the venue for 2 grand clubs of African football. Egyptian authorities have unashamedly made them play in nondescript places like Al Salam stadium. At the other end of North Africa, the Casablanca teams welcomed TP Mazembe and Etoile Sahel at the Mohammed V Stadium. The 50k seater stadium in Casablanca is the favourite venue to host the CAF Champions League final this season.
3. Clinical defenders
It is an open secret that in the CAFCL you score goals by set-pieces if shooting outside the box does not work – teams just do not want to pass the ball into the net. This, of course, gives defenders opportunities to get on the score sheet. They had a fruitful outing over the first leg matches as each game saw a defender find the back of the net.
Center-backs, Mahmoud Alaa and Badr Banoun scored the clinchers for Zamalek and Raja Casablanca respectively. Fullbacks, Ali Maaloul and Mohamed Nahiri went further and got braces to give their sides, Ahly and Wydad respectively, solid leads ahead of the second leg matches in a week’s time. Who needs strikers?
4. Foreign coaches earn their paycheck
We are one of those bitter fans who have been hating on foreign coaches in Africa. We just don’t like how African clubs throw themselves over these guys yet they don’t deliver extraordinary results. But credit where its due. The trio of foreign coaches still in the CAF Champions League delivered resounding quarterfinal first leg wins over their local counterparts.
Juan Garrido led Wydad Casablanca to beat his former team, Rene Weiler finally delivered a top performance in the Champions League and Patrice Carteron got the better of Esperance Tunis yet again. Congratulations to the gaffers.
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