Too Good: North Africa
Regional dominance reigns once again, with all four of the semi-finalists in the 2019-20 Champions League from North Africa.
This isn’t a major surprise—the region enjoys major dominance in the competition—particularly as only two of the eight quarter-finalists were from Sub-Saharan Africa, with two Northern teams guaranteed a berth in the semis.
Tout Puissant Mazembe were undone by their poor first-leg result in Morocco against Raja Casablanca, and were unable to turn things around in Lubumbashi, while Mamelodi Sundowns also failed to respond after a defeat away at Al-Ahly in their first leg.
Too Bad: Mamelodi Sundowns
The Brazilians’ defeat by Ahly is particularly hard to swallow considering how convincingly they routed Africa’s most successful club at the same stage of the competition a year ago.
In 2019, Pitso Mosimane’s side thumped Ahly 5-0 in the first leg of their quarter-final, one of the club’s finest performances in recent years.
A year on, however, it was a different story, and Ahly garnered a measure of revenge with a 2-0 first-leg triumph and then a cagey 1-1 draw against the South Africans back in Pretoria.
Perhaps Sundowns will console themselves with a strong finish to the PSL season—and potentially another domestic title—but this represents a bitterly disappointing early elimination for the 2016 champions.
- Raja Casablanca media
Too Good: Anas Zniti
Tout Puissant Mazembe will also feel like they didn’t do themselves justice by falling against Raja in the quarter-finals, having lost 2-0 in Morocco.
They didn’t do enough in the second leg, winning 1-0 to crash out on aggregate.
However, it wasn’t through a lack of creativity, with Mazembe enjoying by far the better of the encounter and forging numerous chances against the North Africans.
Credit must go to Raja keeper Zniti—a member of Morocco’s 2018 African Nations Championship-winning team—as he made a whopping nine saves to keep Mazembe at bay and send Raja through.
It’s not the first time that Les Corbeaux have come up against a keeper in top form in the competition; three of the last six instances of a stopper making nine or more saves in the tournament have been with Mazembe as the oppositions!
Too Bad: Jackson Muleka
One of those players responsible for Zniti’s eye-watering stat is Muleka, who missed several chances against Raja and found himself thwarted by the Moroccan keeper.
Elimination spells a premature end to the campaign for the 20-year-old, who has continued to embellish his reputation as the finest striker currently playing on African soil.
Muleka exits as the tournament top scorer, however, he is still to prove that he can do it in the business end of the competition.
While the wonderkid has 10 goals in his last 10 group games for Mazembe, he’s never scored in the knockout stage of the competition, and yet again, a big opportunity passes him by to prove that he can decide the biggest of matches.
- EPA/KHALED ELFIQI
Too Good: Al-Ahly
Since the Caf Champions League was inaugurated in 1997, no side can come close to matching Ahly’s pedigree.
The Egyptian giants’ progression against Sundowns means they’ve now made the semi-finals on 11 occasions—two more than any other club.
For context, the other three teams to reach this year’s semis have only made this stage on 12 occasions—combined—including this season.
Ahly’s pedigree and their track record in this competition is sublime, but will that translate to another winner’s medal this time around?