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Esperance, Kabylie retain perfect African records

1 August 2010 14:00

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Former title holders Esperance of Tunisia and JS Kabylie of Algeria maintained perfect records in the African Champions League group phase with narrow weekend victories.

Midfielder Oussama Darragi converted a penalty eight minutes from full-time to give 1994 champions Esperance a 1-0 victory against Dynamos of Zimbabwe at Rades on the outskirts of Tunis.

Striker Fares Hemitti pounced on a rebound 10 minutes into the second half and scored the goal that earned 1981 and 1990 winners Kabylie a 1-0 win over Heartland of Nigeria in eastern town Tizi-Ouzou.

Esperance launched their six-match campaign by collecting maximum points at Entente Setif of Algeria two weeks ago and now have six in Group A - three more than defending champions TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mazembe, three-time winners of the premier African Football Confederation club competition, host Setif later Sunday in southern mining city Lubumbashi and a home win will bring them level with the Tunisians.

Kabylie also have six points having won away in the opening round and cannot be overtaken in Group B this weekend as record six-time champions Al-Ahly of Egypt have one and Ismailia none ahead of an Egyptian showdown in Cairo.

Esperance overcame the absence of injured goalscorers Wajdi Bouazzi and Nigeria-born Michael Eneramo to dominate possession against Zimbabwe opponents desperate to dodge defeat having lost at home to Mazembe in mid-July.

But as time ticked away at the 60,000-capacity National Stadium striker Khaled Ayari was fouled inside the area, the Togolese referee pointed to the penalty spot and Darragi became the 'Blood and Gold' hero.

The match in Algeria followed a similar pattern with Kabylie continually pressing to try and unearth defensive holes while 2009 runners-up Heartland retreated in depth at the slightest hint of danger.

Mohamed Aoudia came close to breaking the deadlock, forcing a superb first half save from Augustine Brown and later being let down by his first touch when a Saad Tedjar cross dropped invitingly inside the six-yard box.

Another cross led to the only goal with Brown and his defenders failing to cut off the threat created by Sid Ali Yahia-Cherif and when the ball came back off the far post, Hemitti was perfectly placed to stab it into the net.

Heartland, regularly accused by visiting teams of treating them badly with one forced to eat a bread-only lunch and another reduced to training in a hotel garden, have one point from a home draw with Ahly.

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