African Champions League: Zamalek and Zesco hold advantages
Egypt’s Zamalek and Zambia’s Zesco United both have advantages ahead of Saturday’s African Champions League semi-final second legs.
Five-time winners Zamalek hold a 4-0 lead as they travel to face over former champions Wydad Casablanca of Morocco.
While Zesco, in their first ever semi-final, hold are 2-1 up on hosts Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa 2-1.
The African Champions League winners will represent the continent at December’s Club World Cup in Japan.
Did you know:
Mamelodi Sundowns were knocked out of the Champions League by AS Vita Club of DR Congo before being eliminated from the Confederation Cup by Ghana’s Medeama. They were reinstated to the group phase of the Champions League when Vita Club were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player in an earlier round.
If Wydad are to reach the final they must do what no other team has done in the 52 years of the continents main club competition and overcome a 4-0 deficit in the semi-finals.
Guinea’s Haifa overcame a 3-0 loss in the second leg against Asec Mimosas of Ivory Coast to reach the 1976 final, with a 5-0 victory.
A season later Ghana’s Hearts of Oak achieved a similar comeback as they beat Mufulira Wanderers of Zambia on penalties after the tie ended 5-5 on aggregate following a 5-2 first leg loss.
Wydad, who has knocked out reigning champions TP Mazembe of DR Congo in the qualifying phase, sacked coach John Toshack the day after the loss in Egypt.
The other setback for Wydad is the loss of form by striker Reda Hajhouj, who averaged a goal a game in six qualifiers, but has not scored in seven subsequent matches.
One player the Moroccans will try and keep under control is Shikabala after his impressive performance in the first leg in Egypt.
The midfielder, whose real name is Mahmoud Abdel-Razek score a spectacular goal after he ran 56 metres before unleashing a shot from outside the box which flew into the bottom corner of the goal.
Aymen Hefny, Bassem Morsy and substitute Mostafa Fathy’s penalty completed the 4-0 win for Zamalek.
Zesco United’s task was made more difficult after they conceded a late away goal to Mamelodi Sundowns in the first leg.
Jackson Mwanza scored twice within three minutes to give Zesco the lead in Ndola before Zimbabwean Khama Billiat was on target with just three minutes left.
Sundowns will take encouragement from the fact that only two of the 10 previous clubs that have won the first leg of a semi-final 2-1 have gone onto qualify for the final.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane fears Zesco could have an edge in fitness as the South Africans will be playing a fifth game in 14 days.
“Zesco will be well rested, but we cannot let that disturb us,” he stressed.
“We are a professional club and have to put up a good performance against all odds.”.
Rival coach George Lwandamina believes the tempo of the second leg will be a crucial factor.
“We cannot match Sundowns for speed so it is vital that we dictate the pace,” said the former Zambia coach.