Heavily-criticised Hearts make winning start
Once-powerful Ghanaian club Hearts of Oak shrugged off pre-match criticism from former stars to defeat modest Beninese Police 1-0 in the CAF Confederation Cup at the weekend.
Selasi Adjei nodded the match-winner off a corner two minutes into the second half of the preliminary-round, first-leg clash at Accra Sport Stadium.
Victory was a morale boost for a youthful `Phobians` side, who had come under fire from 1965 Africa Cup of Nations winner Osei Kofi and former Hearts skipper Jacob Nettey.
Both believed the 2000 African champions were not good enough to be competing in the second-tier African club competition.
"Their recent form has been very poor and they should have withdrawn," was the blunt pre-match assessment of 74-year-old Kofi on TV.
Nettey, who skippered the 2000 CAF Champions League-winning team, was equally harsh on radio.
"Hearts lack the quality and experience to play in Africa... competing will be a waste of money," said the 39-year-old former defender.
After winning the first Confederation Cup competition in 2004, Hearts have made no impression in subsequent African campaigns.
They had opportunities to defeat Police more convincingly, but Owusu Bempah failed to capitalise on several edge-of-box free-kicks.
Hearts` Burkian Faso-born goalkeeper Soulama Abdoulaye was virtually unemployed as the Beninese concentrated on not conceding more goals.
The west African clubs meet again on March 1 in Cotonou with the aggregate winners advancing to the last-32 stage.
Kenyans Pakapoos are facing early elimination after a 2-1 home loss to Zimbabweans Platinum at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi.
Brian Muzondwa finished off a mid-first half counterattack to put the platinum mine club ahead and Burundian Fiston Razak levelled after the break.
Sofapaka skipper Felly Mulumba gifted Platinum the winning goal by failing to cut off a cross,leaving unmarked Donald Ngoma to fire past goalkeeper David Okello.
Billah Bushnaf scored a seven-minute hat-trick as Libyans Al-Ittihad trounced Chadians Elect Sport 6-1 for the biggest victory of the weekend.
Facile Badri, Yahia Mohamed and Al-Moatassim Sabo also scored for the Tripoli outfit in a game moved to neighbouring Tunisia because of escalating Libyan violence.
Guineans Horoya edged Liberians Fassell 1-0 in another match played at a neutral venue because both countries have been hard hit by the Ebola epidemic.
Mali capital Bamako hosted a game settled by a 58th-minute Dramane Nikiéma goal.
Return matches are scheduled for the February 27-March 1 weekend.