TP Mazembe of Congo DR will represent Africa at this year's FIFA Club World Cup in Japan after beating USM Alger 2-0 at home to secure a 4-1 aggregate victory against the Algerian club in the final of the CAF Champions League. It is the fifth time Les Corbeaux have been crowned African champions club.
Going into their return leg in Lubumbashi, USM Alger coach Miloud Hamdi knew that nothing short of a footballing miracle would keep the Champions League trophy in Algeria and allow his club to take over the title won last year by compatriots ES Setif. The last match TP Mazembe lost at home in the competition was in 2009 and at the time they were defending a three-goal lead from the first leg. Hamdi rang in the changes in an attempt to secure a shock victory, bringing in six new players. One of the changes saw Ismael Mansouri take over in goals from Mohamed Zemmamouche, who was carrying a slight injury, but sat on the bench. His changes seemed to have done the trick as the visitors managed to control much of the opening play, yet they failed to put veteran goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba, who won his third gold medal in the competition, under too much pressure. With neither side having created any clear-cut chances, the teams went into the change-rooms at half-time goalless.
The second half began much as the first had ended, with USM dominating, but not getting close enough to score. Alain Traore, who is part of Mazembe's experienced attack - comprising of Thomas Ulimwengu, Mbwana Samatta and Traore - came close ten minutes after the restart, but shot wide. It was an inspired substitution by Mazembe coach Patrice Carteron that brought about the change as Roger Assale come on at the break. The Côte d’Ivoire international looked dangerous going forward and in the 73rd minute could be stopped only through a foul, giving his side the opportunity of opening the score from the spot. Samatta made no mistake, and Assale scored his side's second in injury time after a Samatta break that started well inside their own half. USM Alger had Zinedine Ferhat sent off in the dying moments for an off the ball incident.
Hamdi took some positives from the game. "I think we missed the boat in the first leg. Today, my players were better in every respect, and given the circumstances of the game and the many injuries and suspensions we encountered, we did well. Though we did not bring the cup home, it still remains a good experience for our next international competitions."
Moment of the game
Vital to USM Alger's game plan was that the visitors did not concede a goal and they managed to do so until well into the second half, when substitute Assale, who came on for Solomon Asante, weaved his way into the USM penalty box. He went around one defender, managed to beat a second and as he cut in towards the left to get a shot at goal, he was brought down. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, giving Samatta the opportunity of scoring his second from the spot. The Tanzanian made no mistake, sending Mansouri the wrong way. The goal, which came with less than 20 minutes to go, all but killed off any chance the Algerian side had of snatching an unlikely win.
What they said
"I think that physical freshness made the difference in the two games. We beat a good team, who played better during the second leg. They caused us a lot of problems, especially in the first half when my players were under pressure, due to the excitement that spread through the city during the week," Mazembe coach Patrice Carteron.
Player of the game
After only coming on for the dying minutes of the first match in Algeria, Assale was hoping for more playing time in the return in Lubumbashi. He was not disappointed when Carteron brought him on at the start of the second half for Asante, who had struggled in the opening 45 minutes to find a way through the USM defence. In the 73rd minute Assale set up his side's opening goal when he could only be brought down with a foul in the penalty area, allowing Samatta the opportunity of opening the score. In injury time Assale was rewarded for his enterprising play when Samatta broke and selflessly pushed the ball towards Assale after rounding the goalkeeper and the Ivorian had a simple tap in.
*5 – *TP Mazembe has pulled past Egyptian club Zamalek in the all-time standings of the Champions League into second. *Les Corbeaux's *triumph against USM Alger was the fifth time the club has won the competition, equalling the wins Zamalek has achieved. Mazembe though, also has two runners-up places, while Zamalek have just one. Cairo giants Al Ahly hold the record with eight wins.
Have your say
Can TP Mazembe equal – or even better – their 2010 performance at the FIFA Club World Cup? The side from the Congo DR become the first team from Africa to contest the final of the competition in 2010, after beating Brazilian club Internacional 2-0 in the semi-final.