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Rivers boost Nigerian hopes of CAF Cup group presence

Nigerian club Rivers United drew 0-0 away to Etoile Filante of Burkina Faso on Sunday and boosted hopes of reaching the CAF Confederation Cup group stage.

Ouagadougou-based Etoile were forced to play in the Ivory Coast city of Yamoussoukro because there is no international-standard stadium in their country.

Rivers are the best bet of a Nigerian presence in the mini-league phase this season after compatriots Bendel Insurance were held at home by Renaissance Berkane of Morocco on Saturday.

Return matches in the last-32 qualifiers will be staged between September 29 and October 1 with Rivers enjoying home advantage while Bendel travel to north Africa.

The Confederation Cup – the African equivalent of the Europa League – offers Nigeria the only hope of CAF glory after the early exits of Enyimba and Remo Stars from the Champions League.

No Nigerian club has won the second-tier competition since its introduction in 2004 with Dolphins coming closest by losing the second final to Moroccan outfit FAR Rabat.

Meanwhile, further confirmation that Tanzanian clubs are becoming increasingly competitive in Africa came with a 1-0 first-leg home win for Singida Fountain Gate over Future of Egypt.

Coached by German Ernest Middendorp, Singida struck eight minutes into the second half with Kenyan Elvis Rupia scoring in Dar es Salaam.

Defeat for Future came one day after fellow Cairo club and 11-time African title winners Zamalek suffered a shock 2-0 away defeat by minnows Arta Solar from Djibouti.

A disappointing weekend for Zambia was completed when Maestro United fell 2-1 in Lusaka to Diables Noirs from Congo Brazzaville.

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It could have been even worse for first-time African campaigners Maestro as Albert Fataki and Alves Oko netted for the visitors before Andrew Phiri converted a late penalty.

On Saturday, the Zambian contenders in the Champions League, Power Dynamos, could only draw at home against Simba of Tanzania and are staring overall defeat.

Stade Malien of Mali, surprise winners of the 2009 Confederation Cup, built a 2-0 lead at home to Aigle Noir of Burundi thanks to goals from Ibrahim Traore and Daouda Coulibaly.

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