Djoliba of Mali and AC Leopards of Congo Brazzaville reached the Orange CAF Confederation Cup final this weekend at the expense of favoured Sudanese rivals Al Hilal and Al Merreikh. The Malians defeated Hilal 2-0 in Bamako Sunday to level the aggregate score after losing by the same score in Omdurman last weekend, then triumphed 7-6 in a penalty shootout.
It was almost as close in steamy Omdurman Saturday with Leopards forcing a 0-0 semi-final second-leg drawn against Merreikh having taken a 2-1 advantage to the Sudanese city situated opposite capital Khartoum across the River Nile. Djoliba and Leopards also clashed at the group stage of the second-tier Pan-African club competition this season with the Bamako club held 1-1 at home and losing 3-0 in western Congolese city Dolisie.
The first leg of a final worth $660,000 to the winners is scheduled for Bamako next weekend with the return match a week later in Dolisie, meaning four consecutive weekends of Confederation Cup action for the sides.Idrissa Traore put Djoliba ahead soon after half-time by converting a spot kick and the tie-levelling second goal came 10 minutes from time via Janvier Abouta. A tame penalty from Yusuf Mohamed in the shootout proved fatal for Hilal, who have fallen at the semi-finals stage of CAF competitions five times in the past six seasons.
If Merreikh thought surprise side Leopards would concentrate on defence they were gravely mistaken as the Congolese matched their opponents and came closest to breaking the second-leg deadlock when Cesaire Gandze rattled the crossbar. Stade Malien of Mali won the Confederation Cup which replaced the African Cup Winners Cup and CAF Cup competitions in 2004 , three years ago while no Congolese club progressed beyond the qualifying stage until this year.