Preview: MO Bejaia look to snatch CAF Confederation Cup from continental giants TP Mazembe
Algerian side MO Bejaia are eyeing their first continental competition when they face African behemoths TP Mazembe in the CAF Confederation Cup final.
Date: October 29th
Competition: CAF Confederation Cup
Stadium: Stade Mustapaha Tchaker, Blida
In order to fully comprehend what this match-up represents you need to rewind back to 2010. Rewind back to the time when the Jabulani’s weight caused much speculation amongst a sector of football pundits, rewind to the time when K’naan’s Wavin Flag was a mainstay amongst nearly all the world’s respective radio stations; 2010 was also the same year TP Mazembe held the African flag high by becoming the first African side to reach the Club World Cup final.
When Dioko Kaluyituka netted Les Corbeaux’s second against Brazilian giants Internacional in the semi-final in Abu Dhabi – a local, third division outfit in Bejaia had just passed the ‘football professionalism law’ in Algeria. The club, which was always backed by the Bejaia inhabitants ever since its inception in 1954 had finally seen the light.
Fast forward to 2016, and both sides will face one another in the final of the 2016 CAF Confederation Cup – “what is meant to be, will always find its way”.
Despite it being your archetypal David-Goliath tie in terms of history. This match-up is extremely tasty as both sides will play at notoriously hostile stadiums; MOB – who hail from a city with approximately 180,000 inhabitants – have been granted the chance to play at the illustrious Stade Mustapha Tchaker instead of their 16,000 seater stadium Stade de l’Unite Maghrebine.
Both sides’ respective paths to the final showdown have been relatively different, in a sense. On one hand, 2015 CAF Champions League winners Mazembe cruised to the semi-finals by winning four games out of six in the group stages (one of them came against MOB), scoring a remarkable 10 goals in the process.
The Algerians’ group stage adventure however, wasn’t as straight forward. The Kabylie-based side won only two games in the group, drawing two, and losing the other two. The drama doesn’t stop there, though. Heading into the final game, MOB were trailing Ghanaian side Medeama by three points. Despite the fact that the Ghanaians had scored more goals, a win for MOB would put them in the semi-finals by virtue of head-to-head. In the end, a Morgan Betorangal screamer sealed the win for MOB, as they booked themselves a place in the last four despite only winning two games, and scoring two goals. In fact, Medeama were the only side in the group to beat Mazembe, but ultimately fell at the final hurdle.
If you disregard the six matches played by each team in Group A, you’ll find an uncanny resemblance between both sides’ respective journeys. First of all, both sides were knocked out of the CAF Champions League second round by North African opposition, and by an aggregate score of 3-1. TP Mazembe were knocked out by Moroccan giants Wydad Casablanca, whilst MOB were knocked out by Zamalek. To make things even more strange, Wydad and Zamalek actually faced one another in the semi-finals of this season’s CAF Champions League, with the Whites coming out on top.
The resemblance doesn’t stop there though, as both sides needed away goals to knock out Tunisian sides in the CAF Confederation Cup play-off round. MOB surprised everyone when they knocked out continental giants Esperance Tunis (1-1), whilst Mazembe eliminated Stade Gabesien (2-2).
Fast forward to the semi-finals, and you’ll find that both sides also needed the same aggregate score against Group B opposition to reach the final. MOB shocked Moroccan champions FUS Rabat in the 89th minute thanks to Faouzi Rahal’s finish from close range.
On the other hand, TP Mazembe ousted last season’s champions Etoile du Sahel in a replay of the 2016 CAF Super Cup, thanks to Roger Assale’s goal in Sousse.
As previously mentioned, Mazembe were able to garner four points from two encounters against MOB in the group stages; however, the game in Algeria was one of two they failed to win, and the only game in the group stages where they failed to register a goal.
Who to watch
Betorangal – who will become the first Chadian international to play in a Confederation Cup final on October 29th – scored the goal that put Nasser Sandjak’s men in the semi-finals in the first place. He was nothing short incredible for MOB in both games against FUS, coming awfully close to scoring in the second leg – His performances haven’t gone unnoticed though, as he was nominated for the CAF ‘s African Based Player of the Year award.
Does he need an introduction? The Zambian international has conquered the continent with Mazembe on several occasions, and currently leads the competition’s goalscoring charts alongside Sagrada Esperanca’s Love with six goals. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how he’ll do in what could be his penultimate continental game with Mazembe amid all the speculation regarding his future with the club.
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