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El Berkaoui bags hat-trick as hosts battle in CAF Cup

Ali Gabr (C) scored the first goal as Pyramids of Egypt won 3-0 at Zanaco of Zambia in a CAF Confederation Cup quarter-final first leg © AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Mar 1Moroccans Karim el Berkaoui and Mouhcine Iajour and Senegalese Malick Cisse starred as home teams struggled Sunday in CAF Confederation Cup quarter-final first legs.

El Berkaoui scored his second hat-trick this season in the African equivalent of the Europa League and Cisse netted twice as Hassania Agadir trounced Al Nasr 5-0 in Cairo.

Benghazi-based Nasr had to host Moroccan outfit Agadir in the Egyptian capital because of a military struggle for control of oil-rich Libya.

Iajour opened and closed the scoring for 2019 Confederation Cup runners-up Renaissance Berkane of Morocco in a 2-2 draw away to Al Masry of Egypt in Suez.

Expensively assembled Pyramids of Egypt made it 11 wins in 13 CAF matches this season by overwhelming previously unbeaten Zanaco of Zambia 3-0 in Lusaka.

Enyimba of Nigeria, the only former African champions among the title contenders, failed to defend an early lead and had to settle for a 1-1 home draw with Horoya of Guinea.

El Berkaoui needed only nine minutes to score his previous hat-trick, at home to San Pedro of the Ivory Coast in a group match.

His treble against Nasr took 47 minutes with the first and second goals coming in the first half before the forward netted again 11 minutes after half-time.

Iajour gave Berkane a half-time lead in Suez, Muftah Taktak levelled in the first minute of the second half and Masry led when Zouhair Laaroubi conceded an own-goal just past the hour.

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– Iajour to the rescue –

But with Renaissance staring at a fourth away defeat in the competition, experienced African campaigner Iajour came to the rescue with a goal eight minutes from time.

Zanaco faced Pyramids with confidence born from a six win-four draw Confederation Cup record this season, but conceded twice within 24 minutes and never recovered.

Ali Gabr and Mohamed Farouk, with his sixth Confederation Cup goal, were the first-half scorers and Abdallah Said completed the rout by converting a penalty.

Enyimba’s hopes of becoming the first Nigerian club to lift the trophy suffered a major blow when Boniface Haba levelled for Horoya 19 minutes from time.

Austin Oladapo had given the Nigerians a first-half lead against the Guineans, who have been trophy-less in Africa since winning the 1978 Cup Winners Cup.

Rarely has a semi-finals line-up seemed so obvious after the first legs with Pyramids poised to face Horoya while Berkane and Agadir appear set to clash in an all-Moroccan affair.

Whoever goes all the way, lifts the silverware on May 24 at a venue to be decided and pockets $1.25 million (1.1 mn euros), a new name will be engraved on the trophy.

Past winners of the competition include the three most successful clubs in CAF competitions, Al Ahly and Zamalek of Egypt and TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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FAR Rabat and Raja Casablanca of Morocco, Etoile Sahel of Tunisia and Hearts of Oak of Ghana are other former African champions who have won the Confederation Cup.

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