Visiting Algerian outfit ES Setif shared the spoils with Vita Club of DR Congo in the first leg final of the Caf Champions League on Sunday at the Tata-Raphael Stadium in Kinshasa.
The Black Dolphins came from behind twice to rescue the tie and walked away with one point which leaves their chances of winning their second title hanging by a thread ahead of the return leg, slated for November 1 in Blida, Algeria.
More than 50,000 local fans packed the facility to cheer their team but the North Africans were unfazed by the deafening din as they controlled much of the opening exchanges that culminated in an own goal conceded by Vita Club.
DR Congo international striker Firmin Mubele gifted Setif the lead after deflecting a corner kick into his own net in the 17th minute.
The home side endured more pressure after the goal, but brought the session under control by the half hour mark when Luvumbu and Lusadisu began tormenting Setif’s rearguard with frenetic counters through the flanks.
However, the visitors’ massive defending thwarted most of Vita’s goal efforts, with goalkeeper Sofiane Khedairia intercepting a string of on target strikes.
Setif had a chance to claim a double by the 40th minute when Abdelmalek Ziaya outpaced his marker upfield after being setup by El Amri, and scuffed his short towards the post, but Vita’s goalkeeper Nelson Lukong tipped the ball against the crossbar.
A goalmouth scramble in Setif’s box yielded a penalty for the hosts in the 45th minute when an unintentional hand ball from Mohamed Legraa was sanctioned by the Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe.
Lema Mabidi successfully transformed the spot kick to level for the Congolese, who finished the first half stronger than they started it, in search of a second goal.
They began the second half with greater motivation, besieging Setif’s area minutes after the blast of the whistle but their path was blocked toward the box, with defenders Abdelghani Demmou and Farid Mellouli booting nervously to clear.
A long cross from the edge of the box by Ziaya released Akram Djahnit, who dropped deep into the Vita area, evading his markers before stroking his effort past Lukong to reclaim the lead for Setif by the 56th minute.
Backed by unfaltering support from fans, Vita toiled until the 76th minute to scramble the equaliser through a long-range strike from Mabidi.