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Mighty Esperance melt African hopes of Tanzania’s Azam

Johannesburg, South Africa | AFP |

Esperance of Tunisia demonstrated why they are ranked 342 places above Azam of Tanzania in Africa by winning 3-0 on Tuesday to reach the CAF Confederation Cup play-offs.

The Tunis club, winners of all the CAF competitions except the Confederation Cup, qualified 4-2 on aggregate after suffering a surprise first leg defeat in Dar es Salaam nine days ago.

After having a first half goal disallowed for offside in the last 16 second leg, Esperance went ahead three minutes into the second half when Saad Bguir converted a free-kick.

Haythem Jouini doubled the lead just past the hour and Fakhreddine Ben Youssef put the overall outcome beyond doubt with a third goal nine minutes from time.

An ice cream company sponsors Azam, who were handicapped by the absence of three regulars.

Injuries ruled out Ivorian striker Kipre Tchetche, whose round of 32 hat-trick is the only one in the competition this year, and compatriot and centre-back Pascal Wawa.

Tanzanian full-back Shomari Kapombe is being treated in Johannesburg for a pulmonary embolism after suffering chest pains.

Stade Gabesien were another Tunisian club to reach the play-offs, scheduled for May against CAF Champions League last 16 losers.

They also triumphed 3-0 at home against Zanaco of Zambia after coming from behind in the first leg two weekends ago to force a 1-1 draw.

Ahmed Hosny, who equalised in Lusaka, scored again midway through the opening half in Gabes.

Giant Hichem Essifi doubled the lead soon after and completed the scoring during the second half.

Gabesien have won two of six qualifiers and drawn the rest in a first Confederation Cup campaign.

Sagrada Esperance of Angola have been equally impressive in securing a play-offs place that was clinched through a 2-0 home win over V Club Mokanda of Congo Brazzaville.

Guedes Lupapa scored six minutes after half-time in remote mining town Dundo and Osvaldo ‘Joka’ Palana completed a 4-1 aggregate victory with a last-minute goal.

Since losing at home to Ajax Cape Town of South Africa in a preliminary round first leg, Sagrada have been unbeaten in five matches, winning four.

The matches in Tunisia and Angola were the first in the 13 years of the second-tier African competition to be officially scheduled for midweek.

National associations seeking more weekends for domestic fixtures triggered the change and the second legs of the play-offs and three group matchdays are also set for Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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