Former winners Orlando Pirates of South Africa were left fighting for CAF Champions League survival after being held to a scoreless draw at home by minnows African Stars of Namibia on Saturday.
The clubs meet again next Saturday in the second leg of the round-of-30 tie with Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic convinced they can do better in Windhoek than in Soweto.
Pirates, who shocked ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast in 1995 to become the first South African winners of the continent’s premier club competition, dominated Stars at Orlando Stadium.
But wasteful attackers, especially Zambian Justin Shonga, left Pirates with a much tougher return match than originally anticipated.
“I am satisfied that we did not concede a goal, but absolutely not satisfied with the result of a match we should have won comfortably,” said Serbia-born Sredojevic.
“It will not be easy in Namibia because we must play on an artificial surface, which is a rare experience for us, but I am convinced Pirates will qualify for the group stage.
While Pirates battled, fellow former champions Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and ASEC took significant steps toward sealing places in the 16-club mini-league phase.
Wydad defeated ASC Jaraaf of Senegal 2-0 at home in Cssablanca while ASEC won 1-0 away to Stade Malien in Bamako.
Liberia captain William Jebor gave two-time winners Wydad an early lead before a huge crowd at the Stade Mohamed V in the Moroccan commercial capital.
But the crowd, many dressed in the red of Wydad, endured an anxious wait until three minutes from time before Mohamed Nahiri doubled the lead.
Veteran Faouzi Benzarti is back in charge of Wydad after a successful but unappreciated short spell in charge of the national team in his native Tunisia.
He was dumped without an explanation as coach of the ‘Carthage Eagles’ two months ago after sealing a place at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Malien are making a 16th attempt to qualify for the group stage and appear doomed to fail once again after conceding a stoppage-time goal against ASEC.
Ahmed Toure, one of several Burkina Faso stars with the Abidjan outfit, scored the goal that leaves 1998 champions ASEC needing just a draw at home to progress.
In other matches, Nkana of Zambia edged Simba of Tanzania 2-1 in Kitwe and JS Saoura of Algeria triumphed 2-0 against Ittihad Tanger of Morocco in Bechar.