Entente Setif of Algeria draw 2-2 with their Zambian hosts Zanaco at Nkoloma stadium in Lusaka on Saturday to qualify to the mini league stage of this year’s Orange CAF Champions League for the first time ever.
The Algerians advance to the group stage of the Champions League 3-2 on aggregate after earlier beating Zanaco 1-0 in the first leg played in Setif on April 24.
Entente dominated their hosts for most of the first half that finished goalless.
Midfielder Lazhar Hadj Aissa was a constant threat throughout the first 45 minutes together with striker Nabil Hemani.
Zanaco’s best chance in the first half came in the 17th minute through striker Makundika Sakala after a one-two move inside the penalty area with winger Allen Mukuka.
Sakala however failed to finish on the return inside the six yard box from close range, shooting the ball wide.
Entente defender Mourad Delhoum, who scored the lone goal in the first leg, blasted the ball wide from close range with seven minutes left before the half-time break.
Aissa also had a chance to score deep in the time added-on of the 45 minutes but his effort went wide after beating the offside trap.
Zanaco came back more assertive after halftime and got a deserved lead in the 51st minute through Sakala.
Sakala, who was lurking on the left post, headed in the ball from a cross deliver from wide on the right by Allen Mukuka.
The goal gave the game some added life to the game as Entente pressed and equalized eight minutes later through Hemani via a free kick that was won after Zanaco defender Eugene Shamakamba fouled Aissa on the edge of the box.
Hemani drilled in a direct free kick to beat Zanaco goalkeeper Racha Kola that left the hosts now with the pressure of scoring two goals to stay in the hunt for a group place slot.
Inspirational Aissa was awarded for his hard work with a goal of his own in the 76th minute after stealing the ball from Mukuka on the right wing to skip past Zanaco’s defenders and Kola rifle in with a sublime shot.
Four minutes later, Zanaco restored parity through another header this time from defender Kennedy Nkethani who benefited from a Vanecious Mapande cross from the right side of the penalty area.
Mapande could have given Zanaco the lead in the 84th minute but fluffed his header from a Mukuka cross.
The draw sees Zanaco now left to redeem their ambitious Champions League dreams with battle for a place in the mini-league stage of the Confederations Cup.
Meanwhile, an overwhelmed Entente coach Noureddine Zekri described the win as the biggest day in his coaching career since the taking charge of Algerian club four months ago.
“I am very, very happy and I can’t say how excited I am to have guided the team to the group stage for the first time ever,” Zekri said.
“It is a big day for me after staying on the job for just four month.”
Zekri said Entente’s will try and replicate their match in the 2009 Confederations Cup where they finished runners-up n the final to Stade Malien of Mali.
“We now have chance to see if we can do better than last year and reach the Champions League final and qualify for the first time to the FIFA World Club Cup,” Zekri said.
And Zanaco coach Wedson Nyirenda said he was very disappointed with his teams display against Entente.
“This was our biggest game but I think we could have done better today,” Nyirenda said.
“The boys didn’t apply themselves well to our tactical plan. I think maybe it was the pressure of playing at home, I don’t know.”
Nyirenda added that the onus was now on Zanaco to do better in the pre-group stage of the Confederations cup.
“I think we have come this far and we have to do something. We just have to go all out now the Confederations Cup.”