Kotoko squeeze into Afcon group phase

Eric Bekoe converted a penalty one minute from full-time on Sunday to squeeze Asante Kotoko of Ghana into the African Confederation Cup group

Kotoko triumphed 3-1 against Libyan visitors Al-Ittihad in Kumasi and overturned a 2-1 first leg loss in the fourth qualifying round of the second-tier African club competition.

Club Africain, Etoile Sahel and title holders CS Sfaxien of Tunisia, JS Kabylie of Algeria, Harras al-Hodoud of Egypt, InterClube of Angola and Al-Merreikh of Sudan also advanced this weekend.

Bekoe put the ”Porcupine Warriors” ahead after eight minutes and Eric Opoku added a second early in the second half.

But Burkina Faso-born Pierre Coulibaly scored for Ittihad 10 minutes from full-time to bring the teams level on aggregate only for twice African champions Kotoko to snatch victory after a Libyan defender

Djoliba of Mali were eliminated without suffering a defeat in six qualifiers as two goalless draws with Club Africain led to a penalty shoot-out which they lost 5-3 in Bamako.

After surprisingly being held 1-1 at home by Astres Douala of Cameroon two weeks ago, twice African champions Kabylie snatched a 1-0 away win via a goal from Tayeb Berramia on 78 minutes.

Tunisia will supply three of the eight survivors in a competition modelled on the European UEFA Cup with Sfaxien and Etoile going through Saturday in contrasting fashion.

A goal in each half earned Sfaxien a 2-0 home victory over Platinum Stars of South Africa with Blaise Kouassi on target after 38 minutes and Aymen Ben Amor doubling the lead 16 minutes into the second half following a drawn first leg.

It was the most impressive outing by Sfaxien in defence of the title after making heavy weather of getting past modest rivals JSM Bejaia of Algeria and Linguere of Senegal in previous rounds.

Containment was the name of the game for 2006 Confederation Cup winners Etoile, who held fellow Tunisians and bitter rivals Esperance 0-0 in Tunis and progressed on the strength of a 2-0 home victory.

Etoile lacked star Amine Chermiti, a young striker on the wanted list of several European clubs, and played the last 13 minutes a man short because Ghana-born Sadat Bukhari was sent off.

A blunder by veteran goalkeeper Brian Baloyi from Mamelodi Sundowns gifted Amr al-Dali the 89th-minute goal that gave Hodoud a 2-0 triumph in Alexandria after the home team entered the game
a goal in arrears.

Merreikh, runners-up to Sfaxien last year, went through despite being held 0-0 at home by Olympique Khouribga of Morocco as they had shared four goals in the first leg and won on away goals.

Police side InterClube are the only Southern Africa qualifiers after coming from behind to draw 1-1 in Yaounde against Mount Cameroon, who trailed by one goal after the first encounter. – AFP



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