Leopards adjust sights to Africa
South African club Black Leopards take a break from their relegation battles this weekend to try and seal a last-16 slot in the CAF Confederation Cup.
Leopards, third from bottom of the Premiership table with seven points more than last-place Jomo Cosmos, hold a 4-2 advantage over Saint Eloi Lupopo from the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of the return game in a first round tie.
The team based in northern city Polokwane exceeded expectations at home with defender Humphrey Khoza scoring twice and Nigerian striker Joshua Obaje and midfielder Thomas Madimba once each in a lively encounter.
But the goals scored by Spaniard Alexandru Oprica and Munganga Djunga cast doubts over the ability of Leopards to survive at Stade de la Victoire in Congolese mining hub Lubumbashi.
Leopards' Serb coach Vladislav Heric admits his team do not have the defensive strength to try and hold their lead and has promised more of the attacking fare that revealed numerous first-leg frailties in the Lupopo rearguard.
The Congolese, whose first appearance in a CAF competition was 43 years ago, struggled to defend set pieces and dreadlocked Khoza bagged his first-half brace with headers off corners.
Valencia-born Oprica operates from the left flank of midfield and could hold the key to the tie as he looked a class act in the first match with his clinical close-range finish producing the goal of the match.
Match fatigue could also count against Leopards after playing 10 matches within 31 days in the Premiership, South African FA Cup and Confederation Cup before flying to southern Congo.
The winners of this tie will face Warri Wolves of Nigeria or FC Kallon of Sierra Leone with the odds favouring the former after they forced a goalless stalemate on a poor Freetown pitch two weeks ago.
Defender Uche Ossai was the toast of Warri. Deployed just in front of the back four, he snuffed out the threat of former Monaco and Inter Milan midfielder Mohamed Kallon, who bought the Sierra Leone club 10 years ago.
Swaziland police club Royal Leopard upset Zambian air force outfit Red Arrow in the preliminary round, but hopes of another upset dimmed after being held 1-1 at home by US Tshinkunku from DR Congo.
Club Africain of Tunisia, beaten on penalties by Moghreb Fes of Morocco in the last Confederation Cup final, are expected to progress as they are level at 1-1 on aggregate with Saint George of Ethiopia and will enjoy home advantage.