20 October 2012

Congo-Kinshasa/Morocco: Leopards Have Slight Edge in Race to Reach Semis

Photo: CAF
Congo's Athlétic Club Léopards de Dolisie of Congo held Sudanese side Al-Merreikh to a goalless draw.

The last Orange CAF Confederation Cup semi-finals place will be filled Sunday with AC Leopards of Congo Brazzaville and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco the contenders.

Surprise side Leopards have home advantage against unbeaten Group B leaders Djoliba of Mali and a one-point advantage over Wydad, who are away to Stade Malien of Mali in a fixture scheduled to kick off simultaneously.

While the odds appear tilted slightly toward Leopards progressing, the Moroccans hold a head-to-head advantage having beaten and drawn with the Congolese.

Djoliba and joint Group A leaders Al Hilal and Al Merreikh of Sudan have already secured last-four spots in the second-tier African club football competition carrying a $660,000 first prize.

Leopards must bounce back in southern Congolese city Dolisie after suffering a 3-1 defeat at Wydad two weeks ago the heaviest of four losses in 13 qualifying and mini-league matches. But they can draw confidence from being the only side not beaten by Djoliba in Group B, forcing a 1-1 away draw with Rudy Guelord Bhebey-Ndey giving the visitors an early lead and Alou Bagayoko equalising well into the second half.

Form suggests another tense, low-scoring affair with Leopards averaging just a goal a game in five pool outings and Djoliba conceding a miserly four from the same number of matches. Former title holders Stade Malien are doomed to finish bottom of the table having gathered just two points from a possible 15, one of which came at 2011 CAF Champions League runners-up Wydad.

A late first half goal from Yassine Lakhal seemed set to earn the Moroccans maximum points from that fixture until Moussa Coulibaly snatched an equaliser with three minutes left. Hilal and Merreikh proved far superior to fellow Sudanese side Al Ahly Shandy and Angolan police outfit InterClube in Group A and a top-of-the-table clash in Omdurman Saturday will decide who comes first and dodges Djoliba.

The first meeting ended 1-1 with Nigerian Kelechi Osunwa giving visiting Merreikh a late first half lead that Zimbabwean Edward Sadomba cancelled a minute into the second half. After impressing en route to the mini-league phase, African rookies Ahly have lost four of five group games while vastly experienced InterClube fared even worse with just two draws ahead of a visit to north-eastern town Shandy.

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