Enugu Rangers get favourable CAF Cup pairing

Remarkable 2018/2019 CAF Confederation Cup qualifiers Enugu Rangers of Nigeria were paired with Defence Force of Ethiopia in the preliminary round and will be favourites for the two-legged tie.

Rangers, whose only African title came 41 years ago, trailed Kano Pillars by three goals 13 minutes from time in the Nigerian FA Cup final, with a CAF place also up for grabs.

But Kevin Itoya, Chidera Ezeh and Ajani Ibrahim scored in a stunning comeback before Enugu won on penalties to secure the Nigerian place in the second-tier African club competition.

The draws for the preliminary and first rounds were made last Saturday but only released this weekend because of complications regarding the Moroccan entrants.

Enugu did best in the first of four Confederation Cup appearances, reaching the 2004 group stage, while Defence have won just one of five previous ties.

Should the Nigerian outfit prevail, they will face USM Bel-Abbes of Algeria or LISCR of Liberia for a playoffs spot.

Asante Kotoko, runners-up to Hearts of Oak in an all-Ghana maiden Confederation Cup final 14 years ago, must wait to discover the identity of their opponents.

The ‘Porcupine Warriors’ from Kumasi, who missed four penalties in a Confederation Cup qualifier last season, were paired with the Cameroon FA Cup winners.

Kaizer Chiefs were handed an easier path to the playoffs than fellow South African challengers and debutants Free State Stars.

Chiefs, winners of the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup in 2001 but otherwise poor CAF performers, have vowed to treat continental fixtures more seriously than in the past.

“We want to win every competition we participate in,” stressed Italian coach Giovanni Solinas when asked if fielding second-string sides in Africa would continue.

Chiefs meet Zimamoto of Zanzibar and, assuming they clear that hurdle, Elgeco Plus of Madagascar or Deportivo Unidad of Equatorial Guinea.

Free State play Mukura Victory of Rwanda, also debuting in the Confederation Cup, and the overall winners come up against 2017 quarterfinalists Al Hilal Obied of Sudan.

Kariobangi Sharks of Kenya will experience African football for the first time when they confront Arta/Solar7, the first entrants from tiny Horn of Africa state Djibouti.

The draw delivered a mix of relief and concern for Zambian army outfit Green Buffaloes, who made a timid preliminary-round exit to Al Masry of Egypt last season.

Buffaloes should overcome Al Merreikh Juba of South Sudan, but would then face the most successful Confederation Cup club, CS Sfaxien of Tunisia.

Sfaxien have lifted the trophy a record three times, in 2007, 2008 and 2013, and were runners-up to FAR Rabat of Morocco in 2010.

Preliminary round first legs are scheduled for November 27/28 with the return matches on December 4/5.

PRELIMINARY ROUND

Nouakchott Kings (MTN) v Stade Abidjan (CIV)
Al Ahly Shendy (SUD) v Nyuki (COD)
Petro Luanda (ANG) v Orapa (BOT)
CotonTchad (CHA) v Gomido (TOG)
Hassania Agadir (MAR) v Garde Nationale (NIG)
Generation Foot (SEN) v Djoliba (MLI)
Bel-Abbes (ALG) v LISCR (LIB)
Enugu Rangers (NGR) v Defence Force (ETH)
Salitas (BUR) v Wakriya (GUI)
Mtibwa Sugar (TAN) v Northern Dynamo (SEY)
Motema Pembe (COD) v Anges Fatima (CAR)
San-Pedro (CIV) v Armed Forces (GAM)
CMS (GAB) v Silver Strikers (MAW)
Kaizer Chiefs (RSA) v Zimamoto (ZAN)
Elgeco Plus (MAD) v Deportivo Unidad (GEQ)
Miracle (COM) v Al Ittihad (LBA)
New Star (CMR) v Vital’O (BDI)
Kariobangi Sharks (KEN) v Arta/Solar7 (DJI)
Asante Kotoko (GHA) v TBC (CMR)
Free State Stars (RSA) v Mukura Victory (RWA)
Green Eagles (ZAM) v Young Buffaloes (ESW)
Hussein Dey (ALG) v Diables Noirs (CGO)
Green Buffaloes (ZAM) v Al Merreikh Juba (SSD)
First legs: Nov 27/28, second: Dec 4/5

FIRST ROUND

Etoile Sahel (TUN) v Kings/Stade
Shendy/Nyuki v Petro/Orapa
Zamalek (EGY) v CotonTchad/Gomido
Agadir/Garde v Generation/Djoliba
Bel-Abbes/LISCR v Enugu/Defence
Al Masry (EGY) v Salitas/Wakriya
Kampala Capital City Authority (UGA) v Mtibwa/Dynamo
Pembe/Fatima v Pedro/Forces
Raja Casablanca (MAR)/Sanga Balende (COD) v CMS/Strikers
Chiefs/Zimamoto v Elgeco/Unidad
Wydad Fes/Renaissance Berkane (MAR) v Miracle/Ittihad
Al Ahly Tripoli (LBA) v New Star/Vital’O
Sharks/Arta v Kotoko/CMR
Al Hilal Obied (SUD) v Free State/Mukura
Eagles/Young Buffaloes v Hussein/Diables
CS Sfaxien (TUN) v Green Buffaloes/Merreikh
First legs: Dec 14-16, second: Dec 21-23

Note: Raja qualify if they win 2018 Confederation Cup final and Balende qualify if 2019 CAF Champions League entrants V Club (COD) win the final.

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