This is a story where the minnows defeated the giant, where the underdogs overcame the odds on favourite, where a mere inexperienced side prevailed over the valuable experienced side, and another emerging club using a glorious and famous club to send a big shock wave in African football.
To be fair, the stakes of the match was not a do or die affair for T.P. Mazembe as it was a make or break for Medeama. The DR Congo side had already qualified to the semi-finals ahead of the match but they came to protect their hard earned reputation.
The fact is, T.P. Mazembe were unbeaten in five group matches before the game against Medeama. Medeama were also unbeaten in their five home games in the Confederation Cup this season from qualifiers to the group games before hosting Mazembe.
The match, with a statistical significance of number six, had an implication and importance beyond the natural outcomes in football. On the day, the likely results were not the usual three – win, draw or loose but two – pride and purpose.
Pride, such that the DR Congo side wanted to go unbeaten in the group games and the purpose is to finish on top of the group in an enviable way. A point established by Ghanaian midfielder of the team, Daniel Nii Adjei prior to the match toPulse.com.gh.
“It is about pride because we are also here to win so that our team will be unbeaten. We came with a purpose and we came with a plan to come and win and go back. So is not about disappointing a Ghanaian team or a club based in Ghana.
“We are defending the unbeaten run so it means a lot to us to defend that feat because if we lose here it means we couldn’t defend the unbeaten run. So that is the pride we are protecting so that we will be unbeaten in the group stage” he said.
The Ghanaian side’s pride was preserving their home invincibility and more importantly about the purpose was to better their chances of qualifying to the semi-finals of the competition. Earlier on Saturday, Medeama watched M.O. Bejeia lost 1-0 in Tanzania to Young Africans and they realized the way to medal zone was brighter.
Medeama took a comfortable two goal lead before the hour mark through Enoch Attah Adjei’s 31st minute strike from free kick and a spot kick converted by Moses Sarpong in the 58th minute. Both goals came from dead ball situations and from left footed players, the former as the attacking winger and the latter as the wingback.
But big teams fights back and the Lubumbashi side showed that ability with aplomb. Striker Jonathan Bolinga scored and assisted the other to draw parity for his side. Both goals scored with headers from Bolinga and Rainford Kalaba in the 60th and 71st minutes respectively.
The level of performance from Mazembe to stage the comeback was marvelous. Maybe it doesn’t need any mention for the quality and experience shared by their players. But a simple line of commendation is enough to pacify them with this harsh defeat. They played with a higher sense of understanding of football than Medeama. Their maturity exposed the naivety of their opponent.
The fans knew that about the visitors before the game so when they saw them displaying, they applauded them and reserved magnanimous words for Mazembe while jubilating the victory after the game. One word dominated the fans’ comments – maturity. It was a shame that such worthy experience and class counted for nothing after a lively comeback.
It was intriguing in the first place to see Medeama produce this fantastic strong finish in the grace period after the four added-on time. Wasn’t it the same Medeama whose management, coaches and players talked emphatically about a learning curve rather than pursuing a target from the group stage when they actualized their long held ambition of earning a spot at the ‘money zone’?
Captain Muntari Tagoe stated the club’s opinion after beating Mamelodi Sundowns to make the group phase. “This is our target, we’ve achieved it so we just going to participate, whatever comes up we take, so we will see what happens the next time we qualify because this is our first time we will not put pressure on ourselves. We will just go and participate and see what will happen” the goalkeeper told Pulse.com.gh.
In 2012 when Berekum Chelsea stormed the Champions League, they had great player quality with enormous experience from national teams and European stints. Club owner and bankroller, Emmanuel Kyeremeh had the fat cheque to spend and never hinted of lack of finance or contemplating to pull out.
This Medeama team is primarily youthful and well inexperienced but they seized the opportunity to showcase their exuberance when the final whistle was micro seconds delayed. The goal was either a testament of or a motivation from the club’s motto – “never give up”. Akwasi Donsu scored the match winner which could have been adjudged offside but it stood.
Maybe it was about fate. This is the same Akwasi Donsu who won the FA Cup for Medeama last season with his six goals to earn himself the coveted MVP award. The reward of being the FA Cup winners is the spot to compete in the Confederation Cup. When Medeama bloodily needed the game changing goal, Akwasi Donsu responded. This was his first goal in the competition and it was priceless.
In the midst of the sensation, Medeama must set their aim to avoid defeat in Algeria to M.O. Bejeia in the final group game to hand them the semi-finals berth over the North African side. The group stands as; T.P. Mazembe – 10 points, Medeama – 8 points, M.O. Bejeia – 5 points, Young Africans – 4 points.
It’s still an unfinished assignment for Ghana, more daunting and herculean in a fearsome land northward. Medeama have their destiny in their own hands just as they began.
SOURCE: Ishmael Quaicoe