Champions League trophy in Mazembe's plain sight after win in Algeria

Hatem Maher , Saturday 31 Oct 2015

TP Mazembe midfielder Rainford Kalaba scored the first goal against USMA in the Champions League final on Saturday.

DR Congo's TP Mazembe produced a vivid attacking display to come within touching distance of a fifth African Champions League triumph after beating USM Alger 2-1 at the Omar Hammady Stadium in the final first-leg on Saturday.

A sublime effort from Rainford Kalaba gave Mazembe a first-half lead and they were unlucky not to go to the locker room with a bigger lead after USM keeper Mohamed Lamine Zemmamouche pulled off a string of impressive saves.

Kalaba was then sent off on the stroke of halftime for an off-ball incident but Mazembe remained in control, with USM also losing Houcine El Orfi to a deserved red card for earning a second bookable following a handball seven minutes past the hour mark.

Nathan Sinkala's resulting penalty was blocked but Mbwana Samatta converted another spot-kick to put Mazembe 2-0 up before USM substitute Mohamed Seguer gave his side a glimmer of hope with a late goal.

Barring an upset, Mazembe are likely to be crowned African champions for a fifth time when they host USM in the second leg in Lubumbashi on 8 November.

Should they preserve their first-leg advantage, they will equal the five titles won by Egypt's Zamalek. Egyptian giants Ahly, Zamalek's Cairo rivals, are the record winners with eight titles under their belt.


Mazembe looked lively from the very beginning, moving the ball around smoothly and wasting goal-scoring chances which could have given them a comfortable first-half lead if it wasn't for some wonderful saves from Zemmamouche.

He tipped over a rasping shot from Kalaba and thwarted Nathan Sinkala following a one-on-one.

However, he was powerless on 27 minutes when Kalaba neatly controlled the ball before lashing an unstoppable dipping shot from 25 metres that left the keeper with no chance.

Kalaba was sent off for catching an opponent in the face but Mazembe seemed hardly affected after the break, with USM committing too many mistakes at the back and giving away possession easily.

Numbers were evened up when El Orfi collected a second booking for a clear handball in the 67th minute but Sinkala's resulting poor spot-kick was saved by Zemmamouche.

However, Mazembe made amends from another penalty awarded by Egyptian referee Gehad Gereisha when Naceredine Khoualed felled Mbwana Samatta who was racing clear on goal with 13 minutes remaining. Samatta converted the spot kick to silence the home crowd.

Substitute Seguer gave USM a glimmer of hope two minutes from time when he flicked the ball past his challenger and beat goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba with a fine volley from the edge of the area but the Algerians will still face an uphill to climb in the second leg. 

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