Raja Casablanca on brink of Caf Confederation Cup after second-half resurgence

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Three goals in the space of 19 minutes was more than enough to give the Moroccan giants a comfortable lead ahead of the return leg in Kinshasa


After a full month since the semi-finals were played, the 2018 Caf Confederation Cup final first leg between Raja Casablanca and AS Vita Club came alive at the Stade Mohammed V on Sunday.

The Green Eagles dispatched Nigerian giants Enyimba in the last four, while Les Dauphins Noirs recorded a strong 4-0 aggregate victory over Egyptian side Al-Masry.

Raja Casablanca AS Vita scoreline PS

Playing first at home obviously favoured Raja, but seeing that Vita had held Al-Masry to a goalless draw in Port Said, there was definitely a lot to play for.

Both sides had met earlier in the group phase, with the Congolese winning 2-0 on aggregate, after drawing 0-0 first in North Africa. What’s more is that the 1973 African champions had also dispatched another Moroccan team in RS Berkane in the quarter-finals.

This was evidence that they had all it took to get the better of North African sides, but it was totally different this weekend, as Juan Carlos Garrido’s side had most of the chances in the first half, particularly from set pieces, but were unable to capitalise.

AS Vita were far from their best, with bad luck coming their way in the 24th minute when Jean-Marc Makusu Mundele was injured and substituted.

That was a big blow for Florent Ibenge, but his men were able to hold their nerve to ensure the first half ended goalless.

Raja had 11 total shots at the break, and even though only one was on target - the same as their Congolese counterparts - there was that sense that the Moroccan giants would have their way in the second half.

The floodgates did open two minutes after the restart; Soufiane Rahimi got his name on the scoresheet, before doubling his tally in the 61st minute.

Raja Casblanca v AS Vita

More misery was heaped on Vita as Yannick Bangala Litombo was given his matching orders in the 63rd minute. Like that wasn't enough, the 2014 Caf Champions League runners-up conceded a penalty three minutes later which was converted by top marksman Mahmoud Benhalib for his 12th goal in this year’s competition.

The 3-0 result means Raja head into the second leg in Kinshasa next Sunday with a very comfortable lead. The popular saying goes that it’s not over till it’s over, but AS Vita have no away goal to give them some hope, and will need to beat their Moroccan opponents by four goals without reply in the Congolese capital to win the tie in regulation time.

That will be a massive story for the second-tier competition should it happen, with Esperance having already clawed their way back from 3-1 down to see off the most successful team in Africa, Al-Ahly, 3-0 and 4-3 on aggregate in the Champions League final.

Raja Casablanca fan

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Raja Casablanca are too organised a team to see themselves melt down the way Ahly did.

They couldn’t score against AS Vita in the group phase, but have done so in dominant fashion in the final, giving them one hand on their second Confederation Cup title.

For Les Dauphins Noirs, this has been their best run in the second-tier tourney, but the Green Eagles have shown they are a class apart and very little can stop them now.