Mazembe squeeze through, Esperance shocked

African club football giants TP Mazembe of DR Congo scraped into the CAF Confederation Cup group stage on Tuesday after losing 2-1 at international rookies Stade Gabesien of Tunisia.

But another club that have won multiple CAF titles, Esperance of Tunisia, were shock casualties after being held 1-1 at home by Mouloudia Bejaia of Algeria.

Mazembe and Bejaia won the two-legged playoffs on away goals and will join six other clubs to be decided on Wednesday in the May 24 Cairo groups draw.

Jonathan Bolingi, the son of a former DR Congo goalkeeper, was the hero and villain as Mazembe survived thanks to a 1-0 first-leg victory nine days ago.

His second-half goal at the Stade Municipal in Gabes cancelled the lead Youssef Fouazi gave the local club before halftime by converting a penalty.

Ahmed Hosny put Gabesien ahead for the second time in the second leg with 15 minutes left, but a tie-winning third goal eluded a club competing in Africa for the first time this year.

Mazembe, who played the last 14 minutes with 10 men after Bolingi was sent off, have won nine CAF competitions, including the Champions League five times.

The Ravens from Lubumbashi were eliminated in the final round of Champions League qualifying last month and demoted to the Confederation Cup, the African equivalent of the Uefa Europa League.

Star-stacked Esperance were desperate to win the Confederation Cup, the only one of five previous and current CAF competitions they have not lifted.

After holding Champions League demotees Bejaia 0-0 in Algeria, the ‘Blood and Gold’ were confident of success at the Stade Olympique in Tunis suburb Rades.

A foul on Edem Rejaibi offered Esperance an early chance to take the lead, but Chamseddine Dhaouadi failed to score from the penalty kick.

Constant pressure from the home side did pay off just before the half hour when Ghailane Chaalali scored for the two-time African champions.

But a Bejaia outfit competing in Africa for the first time this year were level within four minutes thanks to a goal from Senegal-born Mohamed Ndoye.

Esperance rang the second-half changes, introducing attackers Saad Bguir, Taha Yassin Khenissi and Nigerian Bernard Bulbwa, but the Algerian defence held firm.

The hosts finished with 10 men as an injury prevented Idriss Mhirssi continuing after coach Ammar Souayah had made the three substitutions permitted.


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