Raja hold on in Lubumbashi for semis slot

Goalkeeper Anas Zniti proved to be the hero for Raja Club Athletic after saving a 70th minute penalty to see the side progress to the semi-finals for the first time in 15 years with a 2-1 aggregate win over TP Mazembe.

Raja lost by a solitary goal in the return tie played at the Stade TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi on Saturday, but their 2-0 first leg victory in Cassablanca proved to be all they needed to sail to the last four.

Mazembe youngster and top scorer Jackson Muleka saw his penalty with 20 minutes left saved as his side crashed out of the competition.

The Moroccan side will now take on Zamalek in the last four.

The penalty was not Zniti’s only major save of the afternoon as he did well to save a Goddy Likonza scorching effort from distance with the scores at 1-0 to keep his side in the lead on aggregate.

Sixteen year old Isaac Tshibangu scored the solitary goal of the match four minutes after the restart, but the protracted comeback did not go to the full length thanks to Zniti’s heroics.

Powered by a full to capacity Stade Mazembe, the home side saw most of the ball in the opening half, and had one huge chance to rue at the end of the opening 45 minutes, tournament top scorer Jackson Muleka failing to guide the ball home from the edge of the six yard box.

The forward controlled a cross from the right, but his final shot was always rising, hitting the skies much to the relief of Anas Zniti in the Raja goal.

As early as 46 seconds into the match, Mazembe had created the first chance of the game. Skipper Issama Mpeko was sent through on goal with a sumptuous through pass, but his final effort at goal was weak, the ball rolling kindly into the keeper’s arms.

On the opposite end, Raja who were glad to sit back and let Mazembe do all the running had a rare chance at goal, but Soufiane Rahimi sent a weak effort at goal, the keeper gathering with ease.

Under pressure Mazembe were doing everything in a hurry to try and get back into the game, but that did little to help their course as they committed many mistakes and lost the ball cheaply.

On the half hour mark, Muleka who had been closely checked by the Raja backline managed to find a space for a shot, but his effort was a straight hit at Zniti. The home side continued piling the pressure and came close again in the 41st minute with Likonza’s stinging effort being punched away.

In the second half, Mazembe started strong and just four minutes in, they were 1-0 up when Tshibangu beautifully controlled a well weighted pass from Tresor Mputu before calmly slotting it past Zniti.

The goal gave Mazembe more energy and they came close with a Kabangu Mulota freekick which went just wide. Zniti then made a full stretched save to deny Likonza as the home side piled in the pressure.

They thought to have finally completed the comeback in the 70th minute from the spot when Zniti brought down Muleka, but the youngster could not score from 12 yards out as Zniti saved with his feet.

Relieved, Raja held on for the aggregate win and a ticket to the semis.

Source: Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF)

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