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Mazembe destroy Esperance in Champions League final

TP Mazembe supporters
Mazembe fans are in dreamland after thumping Esperance

Esperance were no match for TP Mazembe of DR Congo who thrashed the Tunisians 5-0 in the first leg of the Champions League final on Sunday.

The emphatic victory in Lubumbashi kept alive TP Mazembe's hopes of retaining the title.

Ngandu Kasongo and Given Singuluma scored two goals each and Dioko Kaluyituka converted a penalty to render the mid-November return match virtually meaningless.

The North Africans claimed an Ngandu Kasongo header did not cross the line after 18 minutes but the protests were ignored by the Togolese referee, who sent off defender Mohamed Ben Mansour soon after.

Mazembe attacked from the kick-off in hot conditions on a billiard-table smooth artificial surface at the 35,000-seat Kenya Stadium in the southern Congolese mining city.

The defending champions were also taking no chances with leading Champions League scorer Michael Eneramo, who had two 'minders' whenever he moved near the ball.

Esperance survived only 18 minutes before falling behind as a Kasongo header from a free-kick put Mazembe ahead amid protests from Tunisian players who felt the ball did not cross the line.

After Eneramo used his outstretched arm to score the goal that eliminated six-time champions Al-Ahly of Egypt in the semi-finals this month, the last thing African football needed was more controversy.

Not only were Esperance behind, but they struggled to contain a Mazembe team backed by a capacity crowd and committed seven fouls within 20 minutes of the match starting.

After a curling shot from midfielder and captain Oussama Darragi just missed the target midway through the half, Esperance were dealt another blow as Mansour was sent off.

The match official spotted an off-the-ball infringement and flashed his red card to incense Esperance coach Faouzi Benzarti, coach of the 'Blood and Gold' when they won the competition for the only time 16 years ago.

Walid Hicheri went close to levelling with a header from a corner and at the other end, the woodwork robbed the home team of a second goal as they continued to dominate possession.

Darragi was replaced by defender Zied Derbali nine minutes before the break as Esperance opted for damage limitation and Nigeria-born Eneramo inherited the captaincy.

But a packed defence from the North Africans could not prevent the defending champions increasing their lead in first-half stoppage time as leading club scorer Kaluyituka converted a penalty.

The Congolese midfielder claimed his seventh goal of the African campaign by sending goalkeeper Wassim Naouara the wrong way after Singuluma was fouled inside the area.

Esperance emerged from a lengthy half-time break to find themselves on the back foot again as Mazembe sought the additional goals that would make the second leg in Tunis on 13 November academic.

A third goal arrived after 56 minutes courtesy of Singuluma, whose powerful near-post header gave the Tunisian goalkeeper no chance and the crowd began a victory party.

Singuluma scored again just two minutes later, turning well to fire home a fourth goal, and Kasongo completed the rout 16 minutes from the end of a game Esperance will want to forget quickly.

The long established teams are chasing African club football bragging rights, a $1.5m first prize and a chance to play at Fifa's Club World Cup in December.

The winner of African football's flagship club competition will meet Mexican side Pachuca at the tournament in Abu Dhabi.

Both clubs have experienced the joy of conquering Africa with Mazembe winners in 1967, 1968 and 2009, while finishing runners-up in 1969 and 1970, and Esperance triumphing in 1994 while losing finals in both 1999 and 2000.

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see also
Mazembe, Esperance reach final
17 Oct 10 |  African
Ahly under pressure after loss
16 Aug 10 |  African
Al Ahly qualify for group stage
11 May 10 |  African

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