SADC’s twin attack crumbles but Supersport and TP Mazembe battle on

Robson Sharuko

Harare – The Southern African Development Community’s hopes for back-to-back success stories in the CAF inter-club flagship competitions were destroyed last weekend after the region’s two remaining representatives in the Champions League – Mamelodi Sundowns and Ferroviario de Beira – crashed out at the hands of North African opposition.

For the first time in the history of the two competitions, SADC representatives – Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa and TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo – emerged victorious in the same year in a landmark campaign for the region last year.

Sundowns were crowned champions of African club football, for the first time in the club’s history, while TP Mazembe, who have been African champions five times in their illustrious history, took the Confederation Cup silverware.

It was a massive show of force by a Southern African region that has been flexing its muscles in football on the continent, in recent years, after decades of living in shadows of the once all-powerful western and northern blocs.

However, while TP Mazembe remain on course to defend their Confederation Cup crown after a completing crushing 7-1 aggregate win in their quarter-final battle against Sudanese side Hilal Obayed, Sundowns fell by the wayside in Morocco as they went down to Wydad Casablanca in a penalty shootout.

The South African side arrived in Casablanca carrying a slender 1-0 win from their home leg tie and after being battered by an inspired opponent who came guns blazing. Sundowns can consider themselves lucky to have restricted the Moroccans to just a goal in the return leg.

“I think we lost the game in Pretoria‚ not in Morocco‚“ Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane said after his team’s heartbreaking elimination.

“In Pretoria we scored three goals but the linesman flagged them offside. They were not offside. I regret the game in Pretoria‚ it’s very sad for football when an official makes a mistake like that.

“But I must also give Wydad credit for the way they played in the first 45 minutes. They really showed they wanted to win.

“In the second half we took the game to Wydad. We saw that they could not take the stress. The stress levels were too high on them and we played in their half and piled on the pressure. You could see they could not even get the ball out of their own half‚ they were defending wildly. It was too much for them.

“But‚ unfortunately‚ you know football‚ with penalties anyone can win. We showed we wanted to play; we were not afraid.”

It also meant Sundowns failed in their bid to join a small elite group of clubs, Al Ahly of Egypt, Enyimba of Nigeria and TP Mazembe of the DRC, to successfully defend their Champions League crown.

A Northern African side will be crowned champions of African football this year after four teams from that region – Al Ahly of Egypt, Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and USM Alger of Algeria – booked their places in the semi-finals.

The Algerians, who topped the group which also featured Zimbabwean champions CAPS United, needed the away goals rule to eliminate brave Mozambican side Ferroviario de Beira, playing in this tournament for the first time ever, in their quarter-final battle.

USM Alger’s away goal in Beira, where they forced a 1-1 draw in the first leg, proved priceless after the two sides batted to a goalless draw in Algiers at the weekend.

While southern African interests in the Champions League is over, at least for this year, SADC still has special interests in the Confederation Cup after SuperSport United of South Africa and TP Mazembe made it past the quarter-final stage.

SuperSport United needed a last-minute goal in Ndola in a 2-2 draw against ZESCO United to eliminate the Zambian outfit on the away goals rule.

It’s the second successive year that ZESCO United have had their dreams dashed by South African clubs after being beaten by eventual Champions League winners, Mamelodi Sundowns, in the semi-finals of the competition last year.

ZESCO United skipper Jacob Banda, who was minutes away from celebrating a place in the semi-finals when Thuso Phala’s sucker punch sent them spinning out of the tournament, described his team’s elimination as heart-breaking.

“It is heart- breaking. As players we have to blame ourselves. We lacked concentration in the last minute,” he told reporters.

“We are now going to focus on the league. Fight hard and get back to the continental competition.’’

The team’s Serbian coach, Zlatko Krmpotic, felt luck played a huge part in their elimination given they also fashioned some good chances in Pretoria to score, at least, a goal that would have changed everything.

“This is a luck issue. We had in the first half opportunities to score. Maybin Kalengo missed about four good opportunities. Jesse Were and Patrick Kongolo also failed to score,” the coach said.

TP Mazembe already had one foot in the semi-finals after having beaten their Sudanese opponents 2-1 away from home and they showed the vast gulf in class between the two sides by scoring five times in Lubumbashi last weekend.

Jean Kasusula, Adam Traore, Ben Malango, Elia Meschack and Djos Mpeko were on target for the Congolese giants.

“In the first leg, we had noticed that the Sudanese had a very slow defence, it was necessary to put in some pace and Chico Ushindi and Adama Traore had this mission. Due to their speed, we exploited this flaw,’’ TP Mazembe coach Pamphile Mihayo told the club’s official website.

“I started with Chico because I did not want to break the pace provided by this youngster since the first leg.’’

Now, TP Mazembe have a date against FUS Rabat of Morocco in the semi-finals for another dance with an African inter-club football final.

September 2017
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