JOHANNESBURG: Enyimba of Nigeria, Al Masry of Egypt and Rayon Sports of Rwanda are poised to reach the CAF Confederation Cup group stage for the first time after achieving impressive results Friday (Saturday in Manila).
The Nigerians recovered from the shock of conceding a second-minute goal in Johannesburg to draw 1-1 with Wits of South Africa in the first leg of a play-off.
Masry also drew 1-1 away, against Mounana of Gabon in Libreville, while Rayon trounced Mozambican visitors Costa do Sol 3-0 in Kigali despite finishing with 10 men.
Goalless draws will suffice for Enyimba and Masry when they host the return matches on April 17 or 18 while Rayon can afford to lose the second leg by two goals and still qualify.
A dramatic start in South Africa saw veteran Daine Klate give Wits a second-minute lead only for Mustapha Ibrahim equalize three minutes later.
Former African champions Enyimba looked dangerous during the opening half, but resorted to time wasting under pressure in the closing stages and two Nigerians were yellow-carded.
Ghana-born Enyimba goalkeeper Fatau Dauda made a string of fine saves to keep Wits at bay.
Wits coach Gavin Hunt fielded a near-full strength side to silence critics who believe he does not take African competitions seriously.
But the South African has lost all five previous away matches in CAF competitions and the Nigerians should exploit home advantage to secure a last-16 place.
Enyimba are among four title contenders from Nigeria with Plateau United playing Saturday and Mountain of Fire and Miracles (MFM) and Akwa United a day later.
In Libreville, Ahmed Gomaa scored his third CAF goal this season to put Masry ahead after 14 minutes in the central African coastal city.
But Egyptian goalkeeper Ahmed Masoud misjudged a corner 12 minutes into the second half and Abdou Atchabao took advantage to nod the equaliser.
Mounana seem destined for a second overall loss to Egyptian opponents this season as they dropped to the Confederation Cup having been eliminated from the Champions League by Al Ahly.
In Kigali, Burundian Shabani Hussein bagged a brace and Kevin Muhire also scored as a Rayon side coached by Belgian Ivan Minneart built a big advantage over Costa.
Another Burundian, Pierrot Kwizera, was red-carded on 82 minutes after a second caution when his team was two goals ahead.
Should Rayon qualify, they will be the first Rwandan club to reach the group stage of a CAF competition.