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Africans in the Champions League: Jean Seri stars as Nice hold Ajax

Africa's players were among the key protagonists in midweek during the Champions League third qualifying round first leg.

For this round, 20 league champions and 10 non-league champions are pitted against each other for the chance to move one step closer to the lucrative group stage.

There was significant attention on OGC Nice this week, after the French side - who finished third in Ligue 1 last season - were drawn against Dutch heavyweights Ajax in their first Champions League outing.

It was a...

Mario Balotelli leads Nice to draw with Ajax; Celtic stumble against Rosenborg

Balotelli celeb vs Ajax 170726
Mario Balotelli celebrates after scoring a goal in Nice's 1-1 draw with Ajax in the Champions League.

Mario Balotelli's first-half goal was only enough for Nice to earn a 1-1 draw against Ajax in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round match on Wednesday.

Balotelli, the former Manchester City, AC Milan and Liverpool forward, tapped home into an empty net in the 32nd minute from Jean Seri's pass across goal after a surging run.

Four-time European champions Ajax levelled with Donny van de Beek's goal in the 49t minute to gain a slim away goals advantage ahead of the return game...

ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Igor Akinfeev keeps first Champions League clean sheet since 2006

CSKA Moscow's h goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev in their 2016/17 Season UEFA Champions League Group E Round 3 football match against AS Monaco at the Arena CSKA Stadium.
Igor Akinfeev ended a run stretching back to November 2006.

CSKA Moscow coach Viktor Gancharenko congratulated goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev after he kept his first Champions League clean sheet for 11 years.

Akinfeev had conceded in his last 40 matches in the competition, but the 31-year-old ended that run as his side beat AEK Athens 2-0 in qualifying.

His previous clean sheet in the Champions League had come against Arsenal in November 2006.

And Gancharenko told the official CSKA website: "Of course, all the team congratulated Akinfeev. Every run has a beginning...

 By Ian Holyman

Mario Balotelli 'is ready to listen' - Nice coach Lucien Favre

Steve Nicol thinks it's in Mario Balotelli's best interest to stay at Nice and continue to mature on and off the field.

Nice coach Lucien Favre says Mario Balotelli is "ready to listen" ahead of making his return to the Champions League.

Balotelli, 26, will spearhead the Nice attack against Ajax on Wednesday in the third qualifying round first leg fixture on the Cote d'Azur.

The former Inter Milan, Manchester City, AC Milan and Liverpool striker had considered a move this summer after only signing a one-year contract upon moving to France, but opted to extend his stay at the club and is now working hard in preseason.

"He...