2012 CONFEDERATION CUP FINAL: Djoliba AC (Mali) – AC Leopards: A Congolese dream?
The explosive Confederation Cup Final to be played November 18 will pit Congolese club, AC Leopards against Djoliba AC of Mali. This is the first time both teams are reaching the final of this competition. But an AC Leopards victory would be more resounding as it will be the country’s first continental title in thirty eight years. The last time any Congolese club won a continental title was in 1974 when CARA of Brazzaville lifted the African Cup of Champions Clubs trophy. The real surprise is that the Dolisie based club have never been a bigwig in Congolese football in fact, the club have very little to brag about — just two nationals cups (2009 and 2011) — especially as they have been around since 1954. AC Leopards have never been champions in their country and they could only go as far as the group stages in their first continental experience. They were bundled out o the competition by Cameroon’s Cotton Sports of Garoua.
In all earnest, no one expected this kind of performance from the Congolese this year but it seems they are learning fast from their past experiences. Miracle after miracle, AC Leopards progressed past the group stage from a relatively not too strong group. Apart from AS Tempête Mocaf of Central African Republic in the first round, Coach Cyril Ndonga’s charges drew blood from some heavy weights of the continent: Tunisia’s Club Sportif Sfaxien two time winners of the CAF Confederation Cup, Heartland FC from Nigeria two time finalists of the CAF Champions League and then the icing on the cake, Moghreb of Fès, current holders of the Confederation Cup title and winners of the CAF Super Cup. Even though they were less successful at group stage (with just two wins), their unwavering concentration in away games kept them in the second spot behind AC Djoliba and propelled them to their first ever semi-final. The Congolese side then traveled to Sudan ready to do battle with El Merreikh. It was an amazing 2-1 win for the visiting side that defended their one goal cushion with a virgin draw in Umdurman in the return leg game. Herman Lakolo and his teammates were treated to a shocking game as AC Leopards snatched their ticket for the final right before their own eyes. The qualification for the finals seems to be a fairy tale but the Congolese continue to dream, this time it may not be a surprise to anyone if AC Leopards emerge victorious from the two games. With a psychological advantage from a 3-0 stink dished out to the Malians in the first round of the competition, the Congolese are only two games away from being crowned at the detriment of the Bamako based team. If they succeed, Djoliba FC with 41 national titles (22 league and 19 cup titles) would have been denied the opportunity to sit at the table of great teams in the continent for the first time and a chance to compete with their arch local rivals, Stade Malien, 2009 winners. Mamoutou Traoré and his teammates would have to shove aside the memory of their first encounter with AC Leopards who showed a strong will to counter any offensive move, in fact, Djoliba are not the only Congolese casualty. Stade Malien had also been schooled by the boys form Brazzaville. What’s more, the upcoming clash may turn out to be a completely different one especially as there is so much at stake this time. Remy Ayayos’ club will have the ultimate advantage of playing the return leg game in their fetish home ground, Dolisie come November 25 Tracing their qualification route 1st round AC Léopards – AS Tempête Mocaf (Caf) 2-0, 2-2 Round of 32 AC Léopards – CS Sfaxien (Tun), 2-0, 1-2 Round of 16 AC Leopards – Heartland FC (Nga), 2-1, 2-3 Round of 16 bis AC Leopards – MAS de Fès (Mar), 2-0, 0-1 * Djoliba AC (Mali) – Club Africain (Tun), 4-3, 2-0 Pool stage AC Leopards – WA Casablanca (Mar), 1-1, 1-3 AC Léopards – Stade Malien (Mal) 1-0, 1-1 AC Léopards – Djoliba AC (Mal) 3-0, 1-1 Djoliba AC – WA Casablanca (Mar), 2-1, 1-2 Djoliba AC – Stade Malien (Mal), 2-0, 2-1 summary AC Leopards: 6 wins, 4 draws, 4 defeats, 22 goals scored, 15 goals conceived * Djoliba AC: 4 wins, 2 draws, 2 defeats, 14 goals scored, 11 goals conceived