Tunisian football coach hopes for change of fortunes
Tunisian coach Faouzi Benzarti is hoping to lift the CAF Confederation Cup Sunday one year after suffering the greatest humiliation of his 32-year career.
His Club Africain team defend a 1-0 lead away to Moghreb Fes of Morocco in the second leg of the final thanks to an early Tunis goal from Cameroon midfielder Alexis Mendomo.
While a precarious lead, it is far from the mission-impossible situation 61-year-old Benzarti faced a year ago after Esperance were whipped 5-0 at TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the CAF Champions League final.
The disgraced coach quit soon after the drawn return match and took charge of Club Africain in the middle of this year, desperate to regain his pride on the international stage.
Esperance bounced back to win the Champions League last month and success for Club Africain would complete a second CAF club clean sweep for the North African country within five seasons.
"I am satisfied with the first leg result and it was very important that we kept a clean sheet at home. We sought an early goal to raise our confidence and got it," Benzarti told Tunisian reporters.
"We can achieve a good result in Morocco and win the trophy despite the fact that our opponents are very strong and proved difficult opponents in the first match.
"My players tried to score more goals but it was not easy against a good and experienced side who attacked even after being reduced to 10 men in the second half."
Victory for the Tunisian side would also end a 20-year African trophy drought since they trounced Nakivubo Villa of Uganda 7-3 over two legs in the final of the CAF Champions Cup -- forerunner to the CAF Champions League.
Club Africain reached the now defunct CAF Cup Winners Cup final before and after that triumph and lost heavily to BCC Lions of Nigeria and narrowly to Africa Sports of Ivory Coast.
It will encourage Benzarti, who has guided the four major Tunisian clubs plus the national teams of his homeland and Libya, that they overcame first-time CAF finalists Moghreb despite lacking two key figures.
Aymen Soltani was injured and Chad-born fellow striker Ezechiel Ndouassel suspended, taking some sting out of an attack that failed to capitalise on the early second-half red carding of Fes defender Samir Zekroumi.
Club Africain boast one proud record ahead of the return match at the 45,000-capacity Fes Sports Complex -- they scored in all five away games en route to the Cup climax.
Moghreb are hoping to emulate compatriots FUS Rabat, shock winners of the second-tier CAF club competition last year by winning 3-2 at Tunisian outfit CS Sfaxien after a goalless first encounter.
They have scored in seven of eight home Confederation Cup outings with the chief sources of goals being Hamza Abourazzouk and Tarik Sektioui with five each and four from Chemseddine Chtibi.
While a draw will suffice for Club Africain, the Moroccan outfit must win either 1-0 and take their chances in a penalty shoot-out or by a two-goal margin if the visitors score.
"The final is played in two halves and we will do our best to turn the tables at home and celebrate winning the Cup with our fans," said Moghreb coach Rachid Taoussi.
Apart from a 660,000-dollar winners cheque, which is 200,000 more than the runners-up bank, the victors earn a crack at Esperance next February for the African Super Cup with 75,000 at stake.
Whatever the outcome it will serve to confirm the dominance of Tunisia (three titles) and Morocco (two) in the seven Confederation Cup finals with the other victorious clubs coming from Ghana and Mali.
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