Johannesburg, South Africa | AFP & THE INDEPENDENT | Congolese side V Club admit it will be “very difficult” to overcome a 3-0 deficit against Raja Casablanca of Morocco Sunday when they host the CAF Confederation Cup final second leg.
There have been 108 two-leg CAF club finals in four competitions with only Mouloudia Alger of Algeria succeeding after trailing by three goals following the first match.
Having lost 3-0 at Hafia of Guinea in the 1976 African Cup of Champions Clubs (now CAF Champions League) final, they won by the same score at home and triumphed on penalties.
“It will be very difficult to pull back three goals,” conceded long-serving V Club coach Florent Ibenge ahead of the return match at the 80,000-seat Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa.
“I barely recognised my team in the first leg of the final. There was no positive aggression from the boys despite it being a continental final.
“Raja won the battle for possession every time the ball ran loose. My boys were slower, less committed and too negative.
“We seemed obsessed with defending, retreating far too close to our goalmouth at the slightest hint of a Moroccan attack.
“However, there is always hope in football and we must improve 100 percent to have any chance of success.”
V Club did win 2-0 at home to Raja during August in the group phase of the Confederation Cup through goals from Fabrice Ngoma and 10-goal leading scorer Jean-Marc Makusu Mundele.
Mundele retired injured midway through the opening half of the first leg, but trained this week and is expected to play, possibly as a substitute.
The victory over Raja will offer a glimmer of hope, and so will a 17-match winning streak at home in the competition since 2009 when they beat Malanti Chiefs from Swaziland (now eSwatini).
– Resilient –
The most recent of those victories was 4-0 over Al Masry of Egypt in a semi-final second leg after a goalless first encounter.
However, Raja are likely to prove far more resilient opponents than Masry, whose cause was not helped by constant arguing with the match officials.
The Moroccans have won five and drawn one of seven away matches in the Confederation Cup en route to the final, scoring 13 goals and conceding eight.
But technical director Fathi Jamal has warned the squad to “remain humble” and guard against overconfidence.
“Overall victory is not assured despite building a good first-leg advantage. We have not lifted the trophy yet,” he stressed.
Raja are chasing a first CAF title since winning the final edition of the CAF Cup in 2003 when French coach Henri Michel, who died this year, was in charge.
They also won the Champions League, the premier African club competition, three times and the CAF Super Cup once, with all five successes achieved under foreign coaches.
Spaniard Juan Carlos Garrido is the current coach and will become the first to win the Confederation Cup with two clubs if Raja raise the trophy.
Garrido coached Al Ahly to a dramatic victory in the 2014 final with the Egyptians scoring six minutes into stoppage time to pip Sewe San Pedro of the Ivory Coast on away goals.
V Club have conquered Africa once, but that was 45 years ago when they defeated Asante Kotoko of Ghana to lift the African Cup of Champions Clubs.
They have since lost to Algerian clubs JET (1981) and Entente Setif (2014) in finals of the same competition, and yet another loss is a title decider looming large this weekend.
Ugandan in charge
Ugandan Dixon Okello, a Confederation of African Football (CAF)and Federation of International Football associations (FIFA) trained security officer, has been put in charge of the CAF final at the 80,000-seat Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa.
This is the third straight assignment for Okello in three months, having been in charge of matches of the Africa Champions league quarters and semis in Cairo Egypt in October.
His job is to plan,coordinate and oversee,the safety and security of all fans, players and officials.