Below, Goal.com highlights some of the most impressive players and teams from the first and second rounds of Champions League action, as well as those who impressed in their domestic leagues in the month of April.
|African Player of the Month | Tresor Mputu
Country & Club: DR Congo & Mazembe
With his club needing a win against Zambia’s Power Dynamos to advance to the last 16 of the Caf Champions League, Tresor Mputu scored a hat-trick to help the Crows to a 6-0 crushing of the visitors in Lubumbashi. This comes after he netted two of the four goals that pushed DR Congo past the Seychelles late last month.
The 26-year-old has rediscovered the form that previously saw him linked to Arsenal as well as a number of other European clubs. After a period away due to suspension, Mputu could prove to be just what TP Mazembe need to regain the Champions League trophy after relinquishing their throne to Esperance last year.
In this past weekend’s action, the Kinshasa native maintained his ascendancy, scoring and assisting in a 2-0 win over Al Merreikh.
It’s been a big month for Esperance, who advanced in the Caf Champions League and also managed to overtake CA Bizertin for first place in the Ligue Professionnelle Tunisienne 1. Much of the credit for the return to prominence of the Bab Souika outfit belongs to young prodigy Youssef Msakni, who orchestrated a run of six straight wins since Esperance’s 1-1 away draw to Brikama United.
The Gambians came into the return leg highly motivated as they took a 1-0 lead, but Msakni and his team-mates were too much for them and ended up winning 3-1, with the youngster tallying one of the strikes. In their next game, Msakni once more had to save his team from defeat when he netted a stunning free kick equaliser in the Tunis derby against Club Africain en route to a 2-1 triumph.
To cap it off, he bagged two more in Esperance’s 6-0 drubbing of Dynamos to virtually assure his team a place in the last eight. All in all, Msakni scored six goals in the six wins and created countless more with his pace and persistent dribbling.
Mohamed Aboutrika (Egypt & Al Ahly)
For someone who is getting up there in age, Mohamed Aboutrika continues to impress for both club and country. The 33-year-old evergreen midfielder had a spectacular month, scoring two crucial goals against Ethiopian Coffee to seal Al Ahly’s passage to the final 16 of the Caf Champions League in a 3-0 win at Cairo Olympic stadium.
He also hit the winner in Egypt’s 2-1 friendly victory over Uganda, participated in a 4-0 win over Chad, and scored a penalty in a 3-2 triumph against Nigeria. Although he was not able to prevent his Cairo giants from falling to a 1-0 away loss to Stade Malien, there is no question that he can play a role in a possible comeback in a fortnight.Lasaad Jaziri (Tunisia & Etoile)
Although Etoile have been going through a turbulent period marred by fan sit-ins, legal action against the board of directors, and yet another coaching change, Lasaad Jaziri is more popular than ever after his injury-time lob over APR’s goalkeeper saved his club’s season and kept them in the Caf Champions League.
Jaziri had given his team a perfect start with a ninth minute strike but the Rwandans answered with two of their own. Hamed Namouchi’s 89th minute equaliser looked to have come too late but the young Jaziri’s determination and focus until the final moments paid off. The striker was on target again during Etoile’s 4-1 home win over visiting AFAD Djekanou to put one foot firmly in the group stages ahead of what should be a manageable return leg in Niger.
|African Team of the Month | Esperance
The Blood and Gold club sent a warning to opponents seeking to usurp their Caf Champions League crown on Saturday by posting a 6-0 stomping of visitors FC Dynamos to cap off a run of six wins in a row. Not only does the tie look all but settled, the Beb Souika outfit is also back in the driving seat of the Tunisian domestic league after overtaking and opening a seven-point gap to CA Bizertin.
After an incredible run during which they won the consecutive Champions League titles in 2009 and 2010 and then finished as runner’s up of the Club World Cup, last year was comparatively a disappointment since Mazembe were banned from an attempt at a third continental title due to allegedly fielding an ineligible player.
However, the past month has been a great one for the Crows who had Fifa side with them in their case against Caf and also posted a 6-0 rout over Zambia’s Power Dynamos. Lamine N’Diaye’s side picked up where they left off against Al Merreikh on Sunday, winning 2-0. Needless to say, it looks like the Congolese are ready to regain their foothold on African football.
Despite a comparatively difficult road to the current stage of the Caf Champions League, Zamalek’s exploits over the past month have been commendable, considering their players are lacking the cohesion gained from domestic league action. With the Egyptian Premier League cancelled due to security concerns, the White Knights’ ability to overcome Cote d’Ivoire’s Africa Sports thanks to away goals is no small feat. More impressive still is the fact that Zamalek pulled out a 2-0 away victory against Maghreb Fes to give themselves an excellent chance of progressing to the quarter-finals. No one has been able to stop the Moroccans on the continental scene as of late and Zamalek’s ability to do so will give them strong hope that they can repeat the feat at home in May.
In early April, ASO Chlef travelled to Martyrs stadium to face off against AS Vita Club. The first leg had ended goalless and the Algerians needed a score draw at least to progress ahead of their hosts. Thanks to a brace from Ali Hadji and a late strike from Hocine Achiou, the visitors managed a lot more than that as they pulled out a seemingly improbable 3-2 win over the Black Dolphins. This weekend, Noureddine Saadi’s side performed admirably on foreign ground once more. Hadji’s second-half finish gave ASO Chlef a precious 1-1 draw against Sudanese favourites Al Hilal. If they maintain their composure, the north Africans should be able to advance to the group stages for the first time in their history.
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