`White witchdoctor` closer to first CAF title

French coach Philippe Troussier moved closer to a first African title this weekend when Tunisian club CS Sfaxien finished top of Group B in the CAF Champions League.

A late Ali Maaloul goal cancelled one by Benjamin Ze Ondo for Algerians visitors and fellow qualifiers Entente Setif in a 1-1 draw.

Sfaxien collected 11 points from six matches and Setif 10 and they will face Democratic Republic of Congo outfits TP Mazembe and Vita Club in the semi-finals.

The outcome of the Vita-Mazembe clash in Kinshasa later Sunday will determine the last-four pairings in the hunt for a $1.5 million (1.1 million euros) first prize.

Disciplinarian Troussier is known throughout Africa as the `white witchdoctor` because of his success with national teams and clubs.

He has guided Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Africa plus leading clubs like Ivorians ASEC Mimosas and South Africans Kaizer Chiefs.

But a CAF national team or club title has eluded the 59-year-old, who recently joined Sfaxien after working in China and Japan.

Troussier said he wanted to be closer to his Morocco-based family.

Although many African teams hire French coaches, only Bertrand Marchand has lifted the trophy that symbolises continental club supremacy.

Marchand was in charge of Tunisians Etoile Sahel when they stunned Egyptians Al-Ahly 3-1 overall in the 2007 final.

The Setif draw maintained the unbeaten record of Troussier with the club from Mediterranean industrial city Sfax after wins over Tunisians Esperance and Libyans Al-Ahly Benghazi.

Sfaxien goalkeeper Rami Jeridi saved an Akram Djahnit penalty before being beaten by Gabonese Benjamin Ze Ondo midway through the second half.

Maaloul had his spot-kick blocked only to equalise off the rebound three minutes from time at Stade Taieb Mhiri.

Egyptians Zamalek, the second most successful CAF club after Ahly with nine titles, finished bottom of Group A after losing 2-1 at Sudanese El-Hilal.

The Cairo `White Knights` managed only one win in six matches and a change of coach has failed to halt the slide.

Zamalek recently replaced former Tottenham and West Ham striker Ahmed `Mido` Hossam with ex-Egypt star Hossam Hassan.

Bakri Al-Medina was the Hilal star in Khartoum, creating the opening goal for Mohamed Bashir and scoring the late winner.

Mostafa Fathy levelled for Zamalek on the hour by taking advantage of slacking marking.

Hassan blamed the pitch and the referee for his second Champions League loss within 13 days.

"We played on asphalt, not grass, and bad decisions by the match officials were another factor," he said.

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