Holders Esperance were held to a barren draw by visiting AS Vita of DR Congo in their Group D Day Three clash on Friday in Tunis.
Both teams fail to break the deadlock in a game that saw Vita leaving the happier side, after earning their first point at this stage.
With wins in their last five matches, the Blood and Gold were hoping to extend their victorious run, but found the Kinshasa-based side a tough nut as the latter gave their host a test their monies worth.
After losses from their opening two games at this stage, Vita needed to avoid defeat to remain in contention. And their positive start was a clear sign of their intent to reverse the books.
The holders lead the pack in Group D on seven points, one more than Raja Club Athletic of Morocco, who accounted for Algerian side JS Kabylie 2-0 in the other match in Casablanca. JS Kabylie has three points and Vita in that order with just a point after three matches.
After a balanced start, Esperance suffered a setback on the half-hour mark when Ghanaian-import Kwame Bonsu limped off and had to be replaced by Mohamed Ali Romdhane, forcing head coach Moine Chaabani to alter his tactics.
Forwards Anice Badri and Ibrahim Ouattara were held in check by their makers whilst Vita goalie Nelson Lukong also came to his side’s rescue a couple of times.
After a barren first half, both teams resumed on a high with ‘Les Dauphins Noirs testing the homers on 59 minutes from Ghanaian-import Mumuni Zakaria, with a shot that went past the face of the Esperance goal.
The host dominated possession with Fousseny Coulibaly and Abdelarouf Benguit leading consistent raids upfront but the Vita rear stood firm.
The visitors survived several threats from the Tunisians and held their own to clinch a vital point. The two teams will face off in the reverse in a fortnight in Kinshasa.
Moine Chaabani (Head coach, Esperance)
We wanted the three points but we weren’t fortunate enough. Seven points in three games isn’t a bad yield. The players gave their best and everyone is battling for the qualification. We are still first in our group but we need to continue working harder and harder.
Anice Badri (Forward, Esperance)
This is not a very good result for us, we wanted to win at home but that’s how football is. You cannot win all the time. We played against a team that defended well. There are other games left and we will hopefully win them.
Florent Ibenge (Head coach, AS Vita Club)
We are a young team that’s still learning. We were up against the 'ogre' of African football. We stood our ground and defended to the best of our ability. We lacked the attacking spirit to be able to create more opportunities. We earned a point today, and it is a good result for me.