CAF Champions League

Black Eagles' draw enough to ascend Africa's summit

ES Setif players celebrate
© AFP

Algerian club ES Setif continued north Africa's dominance in the CAF Champions League by holding DR Congo hopefuls Vita Club to a 1-1 draw at home in Blida on Saturday. The result won the Algerian club the continental title after they had secured a 2-2 draw in Kinshasa a week earlier. With the aggregate score 3-3, Setif won on the away goal rule and will now go forward to represent the continent at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco later this year.

Setif get the draw they need
After the 2-2 draw in the first leg, ES Setif had a slight advantage to begin with in front of a capacity crowd of 35,000 in the Stade Mustapha Tchaker in Blida, knowing that even a low-scoring draw would be good enough to secure them their second triumph in the showpiece event of African club football after 1988. Although Vita knew they would likely need a victory, they went on to the back-foot early in the match, needing to clear a chance from a corner kick in the opening minutes. However, opportunities in the first half, in which Vita claimed most of the possession, were far and few in between, with Guy Lusadisu Basisela squandering the best for the Congolese five minutes before the break when he blasted over the bar.

Minutes after the restart, Sofiane Younes sent the home fans into celebration mode when he pushed a cross from El Hedi Belameiri into the empty goal after three Vita defenders had failed to clear. The lead lasted no more than five minutes, though, as the visitors were finally rewarded for their enterprising play. And again it was Lema Mabidi who found the back of the net with a cannoned shot from outside the area that left Setif goalkeeper Sofiane Khedairia clutching the air. Remarkably, the defender had already scored both goals for his side in the 2-2 draw in the first leg.

Buoyed by Mabidi's heroics, *Les Dauphins Noirs *pushed forward in search of another that would have swung the tie their direction, but they found no way through the packed Setif defence although they dominated for much of the second half. Vita coach Florent Ibenge put the defeat in perspective for the side after the match. “We tried to do our best and play good football,” he said. “We gave everything until the last minute, but we must now get back to work to reach these finals more regularly and not every forty years! But it was a great season. Nobody expected us to go this far.”

Setif's counterpart, Kheireddine Madoui, who became the youngest coach to win the competition, explained how difficult the match turned out to be for his team. "We were a little rushed by the pressing of Vita Club," Madoui said. "My players had moments of panic during the game.

"I even lost control of them at some point, but they pulled together in time. It is our first chance to play at a FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco, and we are going to do our best to honour our country." At December's tournament, Setif will face the winner between Moroccan club Moghreb Tetouan, who are representing the hosts, and Oceania side Auckland City in the quarter-finals.

Moment of the game
ES Setif found themselves on the defensive for most of the first half as Vita Club pushed forward. The home side held out until the break though and then snatched an unlikely lead in the 49th minute when Belameiri took the ball down the right flank. The joint-top scorer of the competition, who missed all but a few minutes of the first leg with an injury, played the ball across the goal where a group of defenders and goalkeeper Nelson Lukong failed to clear, allowing Younes to push the ball into the empty net.

Player of the gameSofiane Younes's goal for Setif meant Vita would have to find two goals in the final 40 minutes to beat the hosts. His fourth in the competition, the international forward, who was previously on the book of Algeria's two other Champions League winners - MC Alger and JS Kabylie - will now go down in history as the player whose goal gave Setif their second continental title.

What they said“We lacked rhythm in the last 20 metres. We knew that Setif was good at countering and was more comfortable with the result of the first match. I must say we were clumsier and less sharp than in the first leg, particularly in the box,” Vita coach Florent Ibenge.

The stat 5 –Setif's victory gave Algerian clubs their fifth Champions League title – second only to Egypt, who have won the competition an astonishing 14 times. JS Kabylie triumphed in 1981 and 1990, Setif in 1988 and 2014, while MC Alger won in 1976. Clubs from Cameroon, Morocco and DR Congo also have claimed the event five times.

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