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CAF C/League drama as South African, Eswatini clubs survive

Amazulu's McCarthy

 

AmaZulu of South Africa staged a great comeback and Royal Leopard of Eswatini pulled off a shock overall victory in CAF Champions League preliminary round second legs at the weekend.

Staring at elimination after a surprise 1-0 first-leg loss at home to Nyasa Big Bullets of Malawi last weekend, Durban-based AmaZulu rediscovered their scoring touch to win 3-1 away and march on.

A 3-2 aggregate victory earned the Champions League debutants a challenging round-of-32 clash in October against TP Mazembe, the Democratic Republic of Congo outfit who have won the competition five times.

AmaZulu coach Benni McCarthy, a 2004 UEFA Champions League winner as a player with Jose Mourinho-managed Porto, took his squad to Malawi against a gloomy backdrop.

The shock 2021 South African Premiership runners-up to Mamelodi Sundowns, after years of battling relegation, had scored just once in five outings in all competitions since the new season began.

McCarthy had also come under fire for calling Malawi a “jungle” and saying he had “never heard of Bullets”, despite the club making six previous appearances in the elite African competition.

While McCarthy kept a low profile from the moment he set foot in the central African country, his team did the talking on the pitch in Lilongwe.

Recalled Bongi Ntuli converted a fourth-minute penalty and scored again after 11 minutes to give AmaZulu a two-goal lead on the day and an aggregate advantage.

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Rattled Bullets scored three minutes into the second half through Henry Kabichi only for Siphelele Mthembu to restore the two-goal second-leg lead of the South African side soon after and seal survival.

Meanwhile, Leopard fell 2-1 away to 2016 semi-finalists Zesco United of Zambia in Ndola, but secured a place in the second and final qualifying round on away goals having won 1-0 at home.

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