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Drogba club spring CAF Champions League surprise


Abidjan Williamsville’s team players pose ahead of the African Champions league football match between Williamsville Athletic Club and Stade Malien at The Robert Champroux Stadium in Abidjan on February 20, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO

Williamsville Athletic Club, whose board members include Ivory Coast football legend Didier Drogba, became the first surprise winners of the 2018 CAF Champions League on Tuesday.

The Ivorian outfit edged former CAF title winners Stade Malien of Mali 1-0 to set up a last-32 showdown with defending champions Wydad Casablanca of Morocco during March.

Williamsville won the preliminary round tie 2-1 on aggregate having held 2009 CAF Confederation Cup title-holders Stade 1-1 in Bamako this month.

The clash with Wydad will decide who advances to the group stage of the elite African club competition with the two-leg losers dropping to the second-tier CAF Confederation Cup.

Striker Drogba ranks among the greatest African footballers of the modern era and retired from international football in 2014 having scored 63 goals in 104 appearances for his country.

Following spells with three French clubs, he spent eight seasons at Chelsea, helping the Londoners rise to become an English and European force.

After playing in China and Turkey, Drogba returned to Stamford Bridge for a further season before moving to North America, where he now plays for second-tier Phoenix Rising.

He joined the Williamsville board last December and will be delighted at their winning debut in Africa against vastly more experienced opponents.

Williamsville supporters had to endure some tense moments at Stade Robert Champroux in Abidjan, however, before the side sealed success.

The tie-clinching goal came two minutes into stoppage time from Roland Zan Bi, who was in the Ivory Coast squad that flopped at the African Nations Championship in Morocco last month.

Liberian club LISCR, who had hopes of causing a shock after defeating Al Hilal of Sudan 1-0 in the first leg, came unstuck in Omdurman as they crumbled 3-0 to bow out.

Mohamed Bashir, who was in the Sudan squad that vastly exceeded expectations by finishing third at the African Nations Championship, bagged a brace for 2015 semi-finalists Hilal.

The midfielder scored early and late in the first half and Sharif Shaibu took the tie beyond the reach of LISCR with a third goal midway through the second half.

Hilal will face Port of Togo or former Confederation Cup winners AC Leopards of Congo Brazzaville, who won the first leg 2-1, for a place in the groups draw.

Twice champions Entente Setif of Algeria drew 0-0 away to Olympic Real Bangui of the Central African Republic to advance 6-0 on aggregate.

Setif, who conquered Africa in 1988 and 2014, await the winners between Aduana Stars of Ghana and Al Tahaddy of Libya, who travelled to west Africa with a one-goal advantage.

There are 23 second legs on Wednesday, another one this Saturday while Saint George of Ethiopia received a walkover and five clubs, including Wydad, got byes.

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