JOHANNESBURG: Last-minute addition Wydad Casablanca of Morocco held six-time champion Ahly of Egypt to a 3-3 draw as the African Champions League group stage opened with ties in every one of its four games over the weekend.
Wydad — which only earned its place in Group B after defending champion TP Mazembe was disqualified — claimed a valuable away point with Mouhssine Iajour’s late equalizer in Cairo on Sunday.
Ahly, winner in 2008 before back-to-back titles for Mazembe, twice surrendered the lead in a match played behind closed doors at the Cairo Military Academy Stadium after Ahly was punished for excessive use of flares by fans.
Also Sunday, Al Hilal of Sudan drew 2-2 at Enyimba of Nigeria in Group A with two goals from Zimbabwe striker Edward Sadomba.
The eight-team group stage kicked off on Saturday with Algerian team MC Alger’s 1-1 home draw with 2010 finalist Esperance of Tunisia in Group B.
Saturday’s Group A match between Raja Casablanca and Coton Sport of Cameroon ended 0-0 in Morocco.
The clubs play each other home and away, with the top two from each group qualifying for the two-legged semifinals.
Missing its vocal home support, Ahly fell behind after just 56 seconds to defender
Sherif Abdul-Fadil’s own goal. Striker Emad Meteb and a Wael Gomaa penalty then turned it around for Ahly, but Iajour scored his first after 61 minutes to make it 2-2.
Mauritius international Dominique da Silva put Ahly — the African Champions League’s most successful team — ahead again before Iajour’s 89th-minute leveler for Wydad.
Wydad — the 1992 African club champion — beat Simba FC of Tanzania in a one-off match last month to earn a place in the group stage. Mazembe was thrown out for including Congolese international defender Janvier Bokungu in the preliminary rounds when he wasn’t registered with the club.
Newly crowned Tunisian champion Esperance led MC Alger in Algiers on Saturday in Group B’s opening fixture through Yacine Derradji’s goal on 15 minutes.
But Alger — in disarray after recently parting company with its coach and reportedly with only 14 players to choose from for the tie — earned the draw two minutes later with Algeria defender Mohamed Megherbi’s header.
Zimbabwe’s Sadomba gave Al Hilal the lead at Enyimba and then forced a 77th-minute equalizer for an away point in Aba, in southern Nigeria, in Group A.
Three-time African champion Raja Casablanca couldn’t make home advantage count against Coton Sport as Group A’s opener ended goalless on Saturday. –Ahmed El-Sedawy in Cairo contributed to this report.