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Football | CAF Champions League

Berekum Chelsea © SuperSport.com

Another Chelsea eye Champs League glory



Thousands of kilometres from Stamford Bridge in London there is another Chelsea Football Club dreaming of Champions League glory.

The footballers of Ghana champions Berekum Chelsea were among a multi-million worldwide audience who watched the English club hold Barcelona in a Uefa Champions League epic this week and qualify for the final.

Berekum have much further to go in the CAF Champions League, whose last-16 phase kicks off this weekend with the Ghanaians hosting 2008 runners-up Cotonsport Garoua from Cameroon.

Victory over two legs would take Chelsea into the group phase where the prize money kicks in with each club guaranteed $400 000, and the champions pocket 1,5 million plus an invite to the even more lucrative Fifa Club World Cup.

After a predictable preliminary victory over Liberians LISCR, Champions League debutants Berekum stunned three-time champions Raja Casablanca from Morocco by scoring five unanswered goals at home.

Emmanuel Clottey led the charge with a hat-trick that made him leading scorer in the elite CAF club competition, and served notice that a Ghanaian club may be ready to mount a serious title challenge.

The last African champions from the country were Accra-based Hearts of Oak in 2000 and many recent challenges have petered out even before the mini-league kicked off.

Dutch coach Hans van der Pluijm was the man behind the rout of Raja and his football philosophy could not be simpler – Berekum must score more goals than the opposition.

Cotonsport had a tougher passage to the second round, pipping Dolphin from Nigeria on away goals after winning 1-0 at home and losing 2-1 away with both Garoua goals coming from Jacques Haman.

The Cameroonians are regular Champions League campaigners, giving them a possible advantage, although they have failed to build on coming so close four years ago when finishing runners-up behind Egyptian giants Al Ahly.

Sunshine Stars of Nigeria must be the most relieved of the 16 survivors having overcome a 4-1 drubbing by Recreativo de Libolo in Angola to scrape through on away goals.

"Our target is to win the Champions League," says skipper Godfrey Oboabona ahead of a visit to Djoliba of Mali, who received a first round walkover when URA of Uganda refused to play in Bamako, citing post-coup security fears.

Ahly are also travelling to Bamako, for a showdown with Stade Malien, and the Cairo Red Devils must be concerned about a lack of competitive practice with no domestic football since 74 spectators died on February 1 in rioting in Port Said.

Title-holders Esperance of Tunisia host Dynamos of Zimbabwe, whose captain Takesure Chinyama scored the three goals that took them past stubborn first round opponents Liga Muculmana from Mozambique.

Much is expected from four-time champions TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo at home to Al Merreikh of Sudan after they slammed six goals past Zambian visitors Power Dynamos in the last round.

In other first leg fixtures, Moghreb Fes of Morocco play Zamalek of Egypt, Etoile Sahel of Tunisia meet AFAD Djekanou of Ivory Coast and Al Hilal of Sudan face ASO Chlef of Algeria.

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