Hearts of Oak flop again in north Africa as Algerians score four

A file picture of Victor Mbaoma (front), who scored for Nigerian club Enyimba in a CAF Confederation Cup play-offs victory over Libyan visitors Al Ittihad on Sunday.

A file picture of Victor Mbaoma (front), who scored for Nigerian club Enyimba in a CAF Confederation Cup play-offs victory over Libyan visitors Al Ittihad on Sunday. Creator: ISSOUF SANOGO

Famed Ghanaian club Hearts of Oak crashed out of the CAF Confederation Cup on Sunday after another dismal defensive show in north Africa.  

The Accra outfit fell 4-0 to JS Saoura in the remote west Algerian city of Bechar and lost the play-off 4-2 on aggregate. 

Hearts began the 2021-2022 African club season in the elite CAF Champions League, but exited in the final qualifying round after suffering a 6-1 hiding from Wydad Casablanca in Morocco. 

Hopes were high in the football-crazy west African country that 2004 Confederation Cup winners Hearts would fare better against debutants Saoura after establishing a two-goal advantage last weekend.

But Saoura netted twice in the first half of the return match to level the tie on aggregate and early and late second-half goals took them into the December 23 group draw in Cairo.

Abdeljalil Saad was first to score for the hosts, Oussama Bellatreche netted either side of half-time and Abdelaziz Lahmeri completed the rout two minutes from time.

Lahmeri has scored four goals in the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League, while four other players who achieved the chart-topping feat belong to clubs who have been eliminated.

Rivers United of Nigeria were another club from the west of the continent to bow out, losing 1-0 to Al Masry in Egypt and failing on away goals.

The goal that won the return match and the tie came after just 14 minutes from Mohamed Grendo in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

However, there is a good chance that Nigeria will be represented in the 16-club group stage, which kicks off on February 16, a week after the Africa Cup of Nations final in Cameroon.

Enyimba, the most successful Nigerian club in Africa with four CAF titles, built a 2-0 lead over Libyan visitors Al Ittihad 2-0 in a delayed first leg.

Sadiq Abubakar and Victor Mbaoma scored in the first half for the two-time African champions, whose best Confederation Cup showing was reaching the 2018 semi-finals.

No date has been set for the second leg, but Enyimba have the upper hand under coach and former Nigeria star Finidi George.

"Enyimba is a sleeping giant and I am determined to take them back where they belong -- among the strongest clubs in Africa," promised George when he took charge recently.

Former CAF Champions League winners TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo and ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast were among 14 clubs to secure group places so far.

After a shock exit from the Champions League, Mazembe forced a 0-0 draw away to South African minnows Marumo Gallants in Polokwane and won 1-0 on aggregate thanks to a first-leg own-goal.

Mazembe were the lone DR Congo survivors with Maniema Union suffering a second 1-0 defeat by Pyramids of Egypt while DC Motema Pembe were eliminated by Gendarmerie Nationale of Niger despite a 1-0 home win.

Teenager Karim Konate followed up a first-leg brace by scoring the second goal as ASEC triumphed 3-2 over Angolan team InterClube having taken a two-goal lead to Luanda.

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