JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Mar 3 – African giants Zamalek of Egypt clawed back into the CAF Confederation Cup title race Sunday with a 1-0 victory at Petro Atletico of Angola.
Desperate for three points after a poor start in Group D, the Cairo White Knights achieved their objective thanks to Moroccan striker Hamid Ahaddad.
He netted after 27 minutes at the Estadio 11 de Novembro in Luanda to lift Zamalek from the bottom of the table to second place, one point behind leaders Gor Mahia of Kenya.
Gor, who have won away only once since 2009 in Africa, face NA Hussein Dey of Algeria in Algiers later Sunday.
Zamalek are the joint third most successful club in CAF competitions with nine titles, including five CAF Champions League triumphs.
But they have not lifted an African trophy since 2003 when they defeated Wydad Casablanca of Morocco in the CAF Super Cup match.
They were rated among the favourites to win the Confederation Cup, especially after slamming seven goals past ASCOT of Chad in the first leg of a qualifier.
But Zamalek struggled in the group phase, conceding four goals when losing at Gor, then only drawing at home against Hussein and Petro.
Having dropped seven points in three outings, victory in Angola became paramount if the Egyptian outfit were to have a realistic chance of a top-two finish and a last-eight place.
They are away again next Sunday, at Hussein, and complete a six-match schedule by hosting Gor on March 17.
Zambian clubs Nkana and Zesco United fared badly in Group C, conceding three goals each in away defeats that left them third and fourth in the standings.
– Crumbled –
Overnight leaders Nkana trailed after only four minutes in Kumasi and crumbled 3-0 to nine-time CAF competition finalists Asante Kotoko of Ghana.
Fatawu Satiu sowed the seeds of destruction with the early goal and Emmanuel Gyamfi and Martin Antwi netted within four minutes midway through the opening half.
Kotoko eased the pressure after half-time, mindful that they must host new table-toppers Al Hilal of Sudan and visit Zesco by mid March.
Hilal took advantage of sloppy goalkeeping by Zesco captain Jacob Banda en route to a 3-1 win in the 33 degree celsius (92 fahrenheit) heat of Omdurman.
Mohamed Eldai and Waleed Hamid, with his third goal of the Confederation Cup campaign, gave the Sudanese a two-goal advantage that was halved by Lazarous Kambole before half-time.
But Banda allowed a long-range shot from Hilal captain Abdellatif Saeed bounce in front of him and fly into the corner of the net on 65 minutes.
Hilal have seven points, Kotoko and Nkana six each and Zesco, seeded to win the group, just four with two rounds remaining.
Salitas of Burkina Faso failed to score for the fourth consecutive Group B match when held 0-0 at home by record three-time Confederation Cup winners CS Sfaxien of Tunisia.
Another Tunisian challenger, Etoile Sahel, have seven points, Sfaxien six, Enugu Rangers of Nigeria four and Salitas three.