JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - A soft early goal gave Esperance of Tunisia a 1-0 victory over Al-Ahly of Egypt in the highest profile match of the African Champions League weekend schedule.
Cameroonian Joseph Ndjeng nodded home from point-blank range 14 minutes into the first half of a highly charged Group B clash at the November 7 Stadium in Tunis suburb Rades.
An inswinging corner was headed across the goalmouth and mid-year signing Ndjeng charged forward to nod past unprotected goalkeeper Ahmed Adel and trigger hysterical scenes in the 60,000-seat national stadium.
It was the second consecutive year that a foreigner delivered a fatal blow to record six-time champions Ahly in Tunisia as Nigerian Michael Eneramo scored the goal last October that took Esperance into the final.
While Eneramo was guility of blatant cheating -- using his right hand to steer a cross into the net -- there was nothing dubious about the header from striker Ndjeng.
Former African champions Esperance squandered a great chance to double their advantage in the second half when midfielder and captain Oussama Darragi blazed a penalty wide.
Ahly were sluggish until the second half when the introduction of 2010 Africa Cup of Nations leading scorer Mohamed 'Geddo' Nagy for midfielder Shehab Ahmed brought more urgency.
But 'Geddo', fellow striker Emad Moteab and crafty fit-again midfielder Mohamed Aboutreika could not break down a strong Esperance defence and the home team finished worthy winners.
Wydad Casablanca of Morocco thumped Mouloudia Alger of Algeria 4-0 in the other Group B match and lead Esperance on goal difference after both collected four points from two outings.
Ahly host Mouloudia in a mid-August clash of sides with a solitary point each and the losers of the Cairo Stadium fixture will be virtually out of contention for a top-two finish and a semi-finals place.
Enyimba of Nigeria are ahead of Al-Hilal of Sudan on goals scored in Group A after victories lifted them to four points apiece while Cotonsport Garoua of Cameroon and Raja Casablanca of Morocco have just one.
Uche Kalu snatched the late winner as Enyimba triumphed 3-2 at Cotonsport after surrendering a two-goal half-time lead while Zimbabwe-born Edward Sadomba converted a second-half penalty as Hilal edged Raja 1-0 in steamy Omdurman.
© 2011 AFP