Africa's top sides have all to play for after cagey CAF Champions League quarter finals
The CAF Champions League has reached the halfway stage of the quarter finals after an intriguing weekend of action across the continent, but any of the eight sides still standing in the competition will fancy their chances of reaching the final four.
Of the sides to progress from the extended group stage, only reigning champions Mamelodi Sundowns secured a first-leg victory, but their defeated foe - Wydad Casablanca - will surely be confident of rescuing the tie in front of their own fans next weekend.
In fact, the only two non-North African sides still in the competition - Downs and Mozambican debutants Ferroviario Beira - have their work cut out to impress ahead of ominous trips up north ahead of the all-decisive second legs.
Yannick Zakri struck the only goal of the game for Pitso Mosimane's Brazilians as they took the initiative in a cagey contest, but Wydad largely stymied the home side's attempts to impose themselves on the match, with Downs' approach play largely limited to long balls forward.
"We struggled in the first half to break the ice, we struggled to get the rhythm," coach Mosimane conceded after the match, as per Kick Off. "We struggled to play like Mamelodi Sundowns and you could see that the boys were getting frustrated."
Ferroviario, by contrast, fell behind in their tie against 2015 finalists USM Alger after Oussama Darfalou's 62nd-minute opener, but rescued a draw when Fabrice Kanda equalised at the death.
"We played well in this game," Ferroviario coach Rogerio Goncalves told CAF's official website. "However, I have to remind everyone that we were playing against a very strong team, with experience in this kind of competitions.
"It is all open and in the second leg, we will fight in our quest to progress."
"We had many chances to score goals," he added. "They had that unique clear opportunity and scored due to a distraction from my defenders.
"In all we were the better side."
Despite the admirable result, the competition's surprise package will rue their inability to defeat USMA in front of their own fans and on a poor surface in East Africa, with the Algerians overwhelming favourites to get the job done in Algiers on Saturday.
"We had to play with a low intensity because of the condition of the pitch," added USMA coach Paul Put. "My players were also tired because of the long travel hours and these factors ensured my players could not give off their best.
"We cannot expect a different result other than victory in the return leg."
Al-Ahli Tripoli, also unexpected quarter finalists, again secured a fine result when they held Tunisian giants Etoile du Sahel - a club with much greater resources than they - in neutral Alexandria.
However, their failure to take a first-leg advantage - and give themselves something to protect in Sousse on Sunday - makes them outsiders to progress, particularly considering the Tunisians' dominance on the day.
Perhaps the Libyans' key source of encouragement can be taken from the dismissal of ESS's star striker Diogo Acosta. He may have been out of sorts on the day, but the Brazilian striker has four goals in the competition so far and represents a loss for the second leg.
The match of the round, unsurprisingly perhaps, was at the Borg El Arab Stadium, where eight-time African champions Al-Ahly were held 2-2 by Esperance de Tunis in a result that may well make the Tunisians favourites for the continental crown.
The heavyweight duo went in level at the break after Taha Yassine Khenissi's 21st-minute goal had cancelled out Abdallah Said's penalty opener, but an error from the Sherik Ekramy early in the second half allowed Ghailene Chaalali to fire Esperance ahead.
The experienced goalkeeper had Walid Azaro to thank as his goal two minutes later restored parity, but the damage may already be done as the Red Devils must now head to Rades in search of a win.
"We were the better side but unfortunately we didn't win," said Ahly coach Hossam El Badry after the match. "We missed our chances while our opponents were lucky.
"I am confident in my players and their ability."