After a long battle to progress to the 2010 African Champion’s League final, TP Mazembe are almost set to retain their crown this weekend.
The Lubumbashi based club seemed to be struggling at the start of the campaign as they struggled to overcome Rwandan champions APR FC in the second round. APR had won 1-0 at home, thanks to Ngabo Albert goal, and the holders overturned the result with a 2-0 win in Lubumbashi after APR went down to nine men.
Looking at the technical abilities of both clubs, TP Mazembe didn’t seem to play better football than APR, but the success at the most lucrative club championship is different.
Mazembe has managed to succeed without their talisman Tresor Mputu who is under CAF suspension due to indiscipline. The highly rated midfielder lost control for a disallowed goal after his club fell behind, ironically to Rwandan champions again in Kigali, during this year’s CECAFA club championship.
Now, title holders TP Mazembe and Tunisian giants Esperance are all scrambling for the title of the 46th edition of Africa’s premier club football tournament, which comes with $1,500,000 prize-money and the right to represent Africa at the 7th edition of the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates in December.
TP Mazembe won the title in 2009, which was their third title overall, after winning it in 1967 and 1968, when it was called the African Cup of Champions Clubs, while Espérance entered the Champions league for the first time in 2005 and winning it for the first time in 1994.
Both teams met in the group stage, with each victorious in their home matches as Mazembe won 2–1 and Espérance 3–0. Both teams qualified for the semifinals on the second-last match day. In the semifinals Mazembe defeated the Algerian side and group Stage winner JS Kabylie by 3–1 on aggregate. Mazembe won at home and drew in the return leg.
Espérance faced Al-Ahly of Egypt and lost the first leg 2–1 away from home. In need of a win in the second leg, Espérance were victorious 1–0 and reached today’s final on the away goals rule.
After losing by 0-5 goals during the first leg in Lubumbashi, the Tunisian champions have a tall mountain to climb if they really mean business to take over the leadership of the continental club flagship, after 16 years in the wilderness. As the score line stands, the Blood and Gold need to bag at least six unanswered goals in the return leg this weekend.
On the surface, it has to take a miracle for Esperance to pay up their pocket draining deficit. Since their 1994 feat, they have been in the final of the CAF Champions League twice in succession that is in 1999 and 2000 but lost to Raja Casablanca of Morocco and Ghana’s Hearts of Oak respectively.
In 1994, Esperance’s coach Faouzi Benzarti was 44-year-old, he guided his side to lift the then Africa Cup of Champions Clubs now known as the Champions League.
At 60, history is knocking at his door again as the first man to lead a Tunisian club to two titles as far as the competition is concerned. But that comes with a huge burden on his shoulders bearing in mind their heavy loss in Lubumbashi.
Mazembe have their job well cut out for them. It is an easy task as they have to go to Rades and defend their five –goal pointer. A draw is just enough to crown them champions. They will only return empty handed if they lose by a very wide margin.
The Senegalese tactician of Tout Puissant Lamine N’daye will have history smiling at him also as the man who led Mazembe to their back-to-back holding of the elite trophy. Even defeat by less than five goals will hand Les Corbeaux their fourth title.