Johannesburg – Ivorian teenage forward Karim Konate enhanced his reputation by scoring twice for ASEC Mimosas in a 2-0 CAF Confederation Cup play-offs first-leg victory over Angolan visitors InterClube on Sunday.
The 17-year-old, who notched three goals in the CAF Champions League this season before ASEC were demoted to the second-tier Confederation Cup, struck after 48 and 90 minutes in Abidjan.
Many Ivorian pundits believe Konate will soon join many countrymen in Europe, hoping to one day emulate retired legends like Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure.
ASEC were among five former Champions League winners in action and Hearts of Oak from Ghana, Orlando Pirates of South Africa and TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo also triumphed.
Hearts, the first winners of the Confederation Cup in 2004, were 2-0 victors over JS Saoura of Algeria thanks to goals from Salifu Ibrahim and Isaac Boateng in Accra.
Soon after Boateng doubled the lead on 72 minutes, the visiting team were reduced to 10 men when goalkeeper Zakaria Saidi was sent off.
Pirates, the first South African club to be crowned African champions, netted late in each half to build a 2-0 advantage over LPRC Oilers of Liberia in Paynesville.
Tshegofatso Mabasa put the Soweto Buccaneers ahead on 42 minutes and Fortune Makaringe doubled the lead in added time.
Given they will enjoy home advantage next Sunday, Pirates seem virtually certain to reach the group stage for the second successive season in the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League.
Mazembe edge Marumo
Mazembe pipped another South African club, Marumo Gallants, 1-0 with Lehlohonolo Nonyane turning a Soze Zemanga free-kick into his own net on the stroke of half-time in Lubumbashi.
The Congolese take the narrow lead to South Africa hoping to avoid a second loss to a team from the republic having been surprisingly eliminated by AmaZulu in the Champions League.
JS Kabylie were the only former African champions to lose, going down 1-0 away to Royal Leopard of Eswatini with Thabiso Mokenkoane the match-winner.
Kabylie were runners-up to Moroccan giants Raja Casablanca in the last Confederation Cup final and will be expected to overcome the deficit at home.
Not only will Leopard face a club renowned for staging comebacks in Tizi Ouzou, a city east of Algiers, but they are likely to find the chilly northern hemisphere winter conditions challenging.
The sixth former African champions in the play-offs, Enyimba of Nigeria, were stranded in Morocco on Sunday after being refused entry to Tunisia for a highly anticipated clash with Al Ittihad of Libya.
Tunisian authorities said the Nigerians did not meet the Covid-19 regulations required to enter the north African nation.
Rivers United, the other Nigerian challengers, established a 2-1 lead over Al Masry of Egypt thanks to a 35th-minute goal from Isaq Kayode in the southeastern city of Aba.
Uche Onwuansanya put the hosts ahead midway through the opening half only for Mohamed Antar to equalise one minute later.
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