A Chris Mugalu penalty gave Simba of Tanzania a shock 1-0 win at V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo Friday as the CAF Champions League group stage kicked off.
The other opening day match also produced an unexpected result with 2020 runners-up Zamalek of Egypt held 0-0 at home by Mouloudia Alger of Algeria.
Simba may have surprised Plateau United of Nigeria in a qualifier, but they travelled to Kinshasa with understandable trepidation after being hammered 5-0 there by V Club two seasons ago.
But there was to be no repeat of that performance from the Congolese club, who were African champions in 1973 and finished runners-up seven years ago.
A multi-national Simba side including players from Tanzania, Zambia, Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Kenya, Mozambique and Uganda contained V Club in a largely uneventful first half.
The Dar es Salaam outfit went ahead on 60 minutes when DR Congo-born Mugalu beat Cameroonian goalkeeper Simon Omossola from the penalty spot for what proved the only goal of the Group A clash.
Simba then successfully defended their lead to get off to a dream start in a section that also includes defending champions Al Ahly of Egypt and Al Merrikh of Sudan.
Ahly, who finished third at the Club World Cup in Qatar this week after edging Palmeiras of Brazil on penalties in a playoff, host Merrikh Tuesday.
– Dogged defence –
Ahly will play at the Cairo International Stadium, where Zamalek could not break through a dogged Mouloudia defence backed by outstanding goalkeeper Abdelkader Salhi.
When Salhi strayed too far off his line on 30 minutes, a teammate cleared a goal-bound Marwan Hamdy shot, and the goalkeeper foiled a close-range effort from Tunisian Ferjani Sassi soon after.
Zamalek introduced veteran midfielder Mahmoud Abdelrazek, popularly known as Shikabala, at half-time and he energised the five-time African champions.
But well-drilled Mouloudia repeatedly defied the hosts, who squandered a chance to snatch victory in stoppage time when Youssef ‘Obama’ Ibrahim blazed wide from close range.
Mouloudia were thrilled to secure a Group D point after flying to Egypt on the back of poor domestic form and a change of coach.
The Algiers club lost two and drew two of their last four domestic league matches and those results led to Nabil Neghiz being replaced by Abdelkader Amrani.
On Saturday, four-time Champions League title-holders Esperance of Tunisia will enjoy home advantage over group debutants Teungueth of Senegal in the same section.
Teungueth stunned Raja Casablanca of Morocco in the final qualifying round, winning on penalties after two goalless draws, to become the first Senegalese side to reach the group stage in 17 years.