Sudanese giants Hilal and Merreikh move rivalry to African stage
Sudanese club football powerhouses Al Hilal and Al Merreikh switch their rivalry to the African stage this weekend with a CAF Confederation Cup matchday 2 clash.
The Omdurman showdown is a top-of-the-table Group A game after Hilal won 2-1 away to another Sudanese side, Al Ahly Shandy, two weeks ago while Merreikh snatched a 1-0 victory over Angolan visitors InterClube.
It is the third time the Omdurman neighbours have confronted each other in a CAF competition with Hilal winning 3-1 at home and drawing 0-0 away in 2009 Champions League matches.
Although silverware has eluded perennial African challengers Hilal, Merreikh went all the way in 1989 when they defeated Bendel United of Nigeria 1-0 overall to lift the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup.
Both teams mix local and African talent with the Hilal squad including stars from Cameroon, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Zimbabwe while Merreikh contain imports from Egypt, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia.
The best known is Merreikh goalkeeper Essam Al Hadary, a key figure in the record three consecutive Africa Cup of Nations titles won by Egypt during the past decade.
Now in the twilight of a successful career as he approaches 40, Al Hadary knows all about success in Africa having helped Cairo club Al Ahly win several Champions League titles.
While Hilal and Merreikh seek maximum points and a three-point advantage in the mini-league, Al Ahly Shandy make the long journey to Angola for a meeting of matchday 1 losers with InterClube.
The Angolan police team, who reached the 2011 Confederation Cup semi-finals, held Merreikh for 86 minutes before losing to an Ahmed El Basha goal and are likely winners in Luanda.
Highlight of Group B will be the meeting of two clubs who have lifted Pan-African trophies -- 1992 Champions League winners Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and 2009 Confederation Cup winners Stade Malien of Mali.
Hosts Wydad launched their campaign by holding giantkillers AC Leopards 1-1 in Congo Brazzaville while Stade suffered a shock 2-0 home defeat by fellow Malians Djoliba in Bamako.
Djoliba stay at home for a fixture against Leopards, whose victims en route to the group phase included two-time Confederation Cup winners CS Sfaxien of Tunisia and title holders Moghreb Fes of Morocco.
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