Johannesburg - Only a catastrophic collapse can prevent
Zamalek of Egypt reaching the CAF Champions League final this weekend, but
ZESCO United of Zambia hold a precarious lead in the other semi-final.
Five-time title-holders Zamalek have a 4-0 lead over
one-time winners Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and no club has overcome such a
large first-leg deficit in the penultimate phase.
Semi-finals debutants ZESCO lead Mamelodi Sundowns of South
Africa 2-1 after seeing a good first-leg performance spoilt by conceding a late
Both second legs are scheduled for Saturday with Sundowns
hosting ZESCO in Pretoria three hours before Wydad and Zamalek clash in Rabat.
To stage the greatest comeback since the premier African
club competition was launched 52 years ago, 1992 champions Wydad will have to
outperform Hafia of Guinea and Hearts of Oak of Ghana.
Hafia, then one of the top clubs in Africa, overcame a 3-0
away loss to ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast in 1976 by winning 5-0 at home.
One season later, Hearts recovered from a 5-2 drubbing by
Mufulira Wanderers of Zambia to win 3-0 at home and squeeze into the final on
Also read: Zamalek throws Enyimba out of CAF Champions League
Wydad, who eliminated title-holders TP Mazembe of the
Democratic Republic of Congo in the qualifying phase, reacted to the
unexpectedly heavy loss to Zamalek by firing coach John Toshack one day later.
The former Real Madrid manager and Liverpool and Wales
striker was replaced by Sebastien Desabre, a Frenchman with considerable
African club football experience.
A wonder goal by captain and midfielder Shikabala -- real
name Mahmoud Abdel Razek Fadlallah -- after a 55-yard run set up Zamalek for
one of their greatest CAF triumphs.
And it is virtually unimaginable that a strong defence
backed by Ahmed El Shenawy, one of the best goalkeepers in Africa, could
surrender such a commanding position.
The loss of form by striker Reda Hajhouj has been a huge
blow to Wydad. He averaged a goal a game in six qualifiers, but has not scored
in seven subsequent matches.
Jackson Mwanza scored twice within three minutes to give
ZESCO a two-goal lead in Ndola that was halved by Zimbabwean Khama Billiat with
only three minutes left.
The result leaves only the second Champions League
semi-final between two Southern Africa clubs delicately balanced with away
goals or a penalty shootout possibly deciding the tie.
Tradition favours Sundowns as only two of 10 previous clubs
that won the first leg of a semi-final 2-1 went on to 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. We are a professional club and have to put up a good performance
against all odds," he stressed.
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 Zambian.For
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