Defender Lema Mabidi’s brace twice helped AS Vita crawl back into the Caf Champions League final against Algerian visitors Entente Setif at the Tata Raphael Stadium in Kinshasa ahead of next weekend’s final showdown.
Setif, 1988 African champions, will go into the return leg knowing that- at least- a low-scoring draw will give them their second African crown.
An Ndombe Mubele own goal handed the Algerians an early lead in front of a capacity crowd of 50,000 at the same venue in which George Foreman and Muhammad Ali fought for the world boxing heavyweight title in a bout tagged the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ 40 years ago.
Vita grabbed the equaliser in the dying minute of the first half when Mohamed Lagraa was harshly adjudged to have handled the ball; Mabidi kept his poise to slot past goalie Sofiane Khedairia and leave both sides tied at the break.
Vita came back from the interval looking sharp in the attack but it was Setif who pulled ahead again; Akram Djahnit rounded the hosts’ goalkeeper before slotting into the net on the hour, after playing a one-two pass with Abdelmalik Ziaya.
The ‘Black Dolphins’ kept fighting to stay in the contest and were rewarded in the 74th minute when Setif failed to clear a corner and Mabidi powered home a superb shot from outside of the area.
There was no call for much celebration in the Vita camp after the draw, as they will be swimming against the tides in the return leg on November 1st in a bid to wrestle a first Caf Champions League title in 40 years. However, the Zairians were glad they maintained a ten-match unbeaten Champions League game run, which stretches back to 2012 when they were beaten by Algerian club ASO Chlef in the first round of the competition.
The winner of the competition will represent Africa at the Fifa Club World Cup in Morocco later this year.