The Caf Champions League defending champions shared the spoils with their Congolese hosts on Sunday in the first leg of the semifinals of this year’s edition played in Lubumbashi
TP Mazembe of DR Congo failed to exploit home advantage over visiting Esperance Tunis in the 2012 Caf Champions League first leg semifinals played on Sunday in Lubumbashi. Both sides settled for a goalless draw, which is slightly in favour of the North Africans who will be hosting the Congolese in a fortnight during the second leg.
The Corbeaux succeeded in humiliating the Blood & Gold 6-1 at home in the 2010 Caf Champions League first leg final, but couldn’t repeat that feat as expected by a number of local supporters, who were stunned by how their team was forced on the defensive by the reigning champions.
The first goal opportunity came to Esperance after captain Khalil Chammam set up Yannick N'Djeng early into the session but the Cameroonian-import was crowded and dispossessed of the ball before he could unleash his effort few yards from the post.
The visitors maintained their domination while cleverly keeping Mazembe’s goal puncher Tresor Mputu offside, as he tried to power his side’s counterattack strategy with little success.
Esperance almost opened the scoring by the half hour mark when a close range header from Tunisia international defender Walid Hicheri floated luckily into the gloves of Mazembe goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba, who was already off balance and tripping over.
Minutes later, the hosts had their chance wasted when a free kick 20 yards out crashed against the crossbar, with a follow up action yielding naught.
Mazembe began to find their feet in second half, with a better ball possession and accurate passes but finishing remained fruitless. With enough space around him in the box area, Mbwana Samata connected with a left flank cross from Kanda, but the Tanzania international’s header blew wide off the post.
Conscious of his side’s ascendancy, coach Lamine Ndiaye threw substitutes Ulimwengu and Kasongo into the fray but without the desired result. The scoreline was still blank with less than a quarter hour to the end of the meeting.
Esperance ‘keeper Ben Cherifia almost gifted an onrushing Mazembe striker a ball he failed to parry on time but a defender quickly intervened to clear the danger.
In a bid to conserve the goalless score and share the spoils, Esperance coach Nabil Maaloul replaced Ghanaian Harrison Afful with Ayari and Ndjeng with playmaker Youssef Msakni, whom many thought would be in the starting lineup.
The hosts continued the push but had their steam taken out when Sunzu bagged a second yellow card and was given matching orders moments before the final whistle.