27.07.2015 13:14 h

CAF champions Setif struggling to reach semis

CAF Champions League title-holders Entente Setif of Algeria are in trouble halfway through the group stage. The Black Eagles were held 1-1 at home by Al Merrikh of Sudan at the weekend and stay third in Group B behind Algerians USM Alger and their matchday 3 opponents.

USM have collected a maximum nine points, Merrikh and Setif have four each and Algerians Mouloudia El Eulma are still without a point.

So USM look set to win the six-matchday series, leaving Merrikh and Setif to fight for the other semi-final slot.

But while the Sudanese can look forward to playing two of their remaining three fixtures at home, two-time African champions Setif must visit Merrikh and USM.

Merrikh host Setif on August 8 and victory for the Omdurman outfit would leave them well positioned to reach the knockout stage for the first time.

Drawing with Merrikh continued Setif's poor home group record at their Stade 8 du Mai ground in north-east Algeria.

The club that also conquered the continent in 1988, when the format was exclusively knock-out, have won just one of eight games in three mini-league campaigns, drawn five and lost two.

Abdelmalek Ziaya finished a sweeping three-man move with a close-range shot to put Setif ahead 16 minutes into the first half.

But the lead lasted a mere six minutes before Nigerian Solomon Jabason punished slack marking to head home a corner.

Mohamed Benyettou and Kheireddine Aroussi squandered late scoring chances to secure victory for the title-holders.

A couple of early goals enabled 2003 Champions League semi-finalists USM to defeat Eulma 2-1 at Stade Omar Hamadi in Algiers.

Al Hilal of Sudan stayed top of Group A by coming from behind to hold Moghreb Tetouan 1-1 in northern Morocco.

Captain Abdeladim Khadrouf nodded the home team in front on 70 minutes at Stade Saniat Rmel in Tetouan.

Brazilian Andrezinho levelled seven minutes later by curling a free-kick into the corner of the net just after coming off the bench.

Hilal have five points and lead on goals scored from Democratic Republic of Congo outfit TP Mazembe, who defeated Egyptians Smouha 2-0 at Alexandria Stadium in the Mediterranean city.

Smouha have three points and fellow group debutants Tetouan two. Both, with only one home fixture each to come, appear unlikely semi-finalists.

The CAF Champions League winners pocket $1.5 million (1.35 million euros) and are invited to the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.