Mazembe are African champions for the third time
TP Mazembe claimed their third African title with a lone goal victory over Heartland FC of Nigeria in the final second leg clash of the Orange CAF Champions League on Saturday in Lubumbashi.
An own goal by Heartland defender Emmanuel Omodiagbe on 73 minutes was enough to earn Mazembe the diadem on the away goal rule after both legs ended 2-2 on aggregate.
It was third title for Les Corbeaux after successes in 1967 and 1968, and a ticket to represent Africa at the FIFA Club World Championship slated for the United Arab Emirates later in December.
The feat, also the first ever for Les Corbeaux since the introduction of the new format in 1997, did not come that easy as they had to surpass a resilient Heartland side for the ultimate.
Playing in front of a packed crowd at the renovated Kenya Stadium in Lubumbashi, with DR Congo President Joseph Kabila also in attendance, Heartland, 2-1 winners from the first leg held in the South Eastern Nigerian city of Owerri held their own against their hosts.
Mazembe led in attack by Zambian-import Given Singuluma and the midfield anchored by captain Tresor Mputu Mabi led several raids into the visitors half, but the Heartland rear of captain Victor Ezuruike, Ikechukwu Ibenegbu, Orji Kalu and Aziz Ansah remained resolute.
The closest the hosts, who needed at least a lone goal victory to replicate their feats of 1967 and 1968, to breaking the deadlock was in closing stages of the first half but Heartland goalie Augustine Brown stretched his elastic limit to parry away Kaluyituka Dioko’s goal bound diving header from an Mputu cross.
Mazembe resumed the second half with the same momentum but it was injuries to three Heartland players; midfielder King Osanga, defender Ibenegbu and goalie Brown that aided their quest.
Heartland, making their debut on the continental stage appeared unperturbed by the injuries to their influential trio, as they defended gallantly and cleared their lines very well.
Mazembe coach Diego Garzitto replaced Singuluma and Dioko with Lusadisu Basisila and Mvete Luyeye respectively, and the introduction of the duo brought more power into their attacking machinery, yet the opener remained elusive.
The hosts’ dominance in possession were rewarded with series of corner kicks within a spate of minutes, and it was only a matter of time that the deadlock will be broken.
On 73 minutes, during one of such raids led by left-back Somwe Joel, Omodiagbe inadvertently headed the ball past substitute goalie Ikechukwu Ezenwa into his own net for the goal which even attracted the plaudits from President Kabila.
Heartland’s plight was further worsened after veteran Emeka Nwanna was given the marching off orders after a vicious tackle on a Mazembe player, as Les Corbeaux cruised to victory.
Moments after Algerian referee Mohamed Benouza brought proceedings to an end, the Kenya stadium went agog as the players, technical team and fans of Mazembe clad in all-white attire went on a jubilation spree in respond to the glorious feat.
During the presentation ceremony, CAF President Issa Hayatou ushered the trophy to President Kabila who in turn handed it over to Mazembe captain Mputu amidst cheers.
Mazembe will also receive 1,500, 000 US Dollars for their efforts and 1,000,000 for Heartland FC.