African fi­nal­ists eye chance to take on Barça

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG: Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo club Tout Puis­sant Mazembe are set to be­come African cham­pi­ons to­day 41 years af­ter last con­quer­ing the con­ti­nent.

None of the team seek­ing to over­come a 2-1 first-leg deficit against Nige­rian vis­i­tors Heart­land in Lubum­bashi were born when the Con­golese ‘ Crows’ beat To­golese team Etoile Fi­lante 6-4 on ag­gre­gate to re­tain the tro­phy.

Then known as TP En­gle­bert, the club formed 70 years ago by Bene­dic­tine monks be­came the first to suc­cess­fully de­fend the African ti­tle and the record was not equalled un­til 2004 when Eny­imba of Nige­ria re­peated the feat.

Mazembe have been reg­u­lar African cam­paign­ers since, but the clos­est they came to com­plet­ing a ti­tle hat-trick was in 2002 when fall­ing to even­tual win­ners Za­malek of Egypt in the semi-fi­nals.

French coach Diego Garzitto, hired this year as part of a $5-mil­lion plan to rule Africa, be­lieves home sup­port can lead his side to glory at the 35,000-seat Kenya Sta­dium in the south­ern min­ing city.

“We have ev­ery­thing to play for in the re­turn match and with our sup­port­ers be­hind us we should be able to tri­umph at home,” he said, eye­ing a record $1.5m first prize.

Mazembe also have the psy­cho­log­i­cal ad­van­tage of hav­ing al­ready beaten Heart­land 2-0 at home in the group phase of the com­pe­ti­tion via sec­ond-half goals from mid­field­ers Mabi Mputu and Dioko Kaluy­i­tuka.

Heart­land from the south-east city of Ow­erri are hop­ing to avoid a re­peat of 1988 fi­nal when the club was known as Iwuanyanwu Na­tionale and they slumped 4-0 away to Al­ge­rian op­po­nents En­tente Setif.

De­spite a Mazembe record of only three home losses in 47 African matches, Nige­rian coach Kelechi Eme­tole be­lieves the ‘Naze Mil­lion­aires’ can go all the way.

King Osanga, scorer of the Heart­land equaliser last week­end, is equally up­beat: “No mat­ter what any­one says we hold the ad­van­tage at the mo­ment and I hope to score again in the re­turn leg.”

An added in­cen­tive for the clubs is a place in the end-of-year Fifa Club World Cup in the United Arab Emi­rates and a pos­si­ble match-up with Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Barcelona. – Sapa-AFP

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