JOHANNESBURG: Leading scorer and captain Rainford Kalaba could be a key figure when Democratic Republic of Congo club TP Mazembe seek a first CAF Confederation Cup title on Sunday.
The star-studded Lubumbashi ‘Ravens’ are favored after forcing a 1-1 draw at star-less Mouloudia Bejaia of Algeria last weekend in the first leg of the final.
Overall success will make Mazembe the second most successful club in CAF competitions with 10 triumphs. Al Ahly of Egypt boasts 19 titles.
Bejaia, promoted to top-flight Algerian football only three years ago, are African debutants and hoping to become the first winners of the second-tier competition from the North African state.
Winger Kalaba has been in outstanding form at the 20,000-capacity Stade TP Mazembe in the heart of the southern Congolese mining region with five goals from three CAF outings.
He bagged braces against Medeama of Ghana and Young Africans of Tanzania and scored the goal that earned Mazembe a 1-0 win over Bejaia at the group stage.
Kalaba also scored away to Medeama and his six-goal haul makes him co-leading scorer in the Confederation Cup this season with Arsenio ‘Love’ Cabungula of Angolan outfit Sagrada Esperanca.
Bejaia were alert to the threat the diminutive 29-year-old Zambian posed in the first leg and he rarely had a chance to exhibit his nimble footwork or predatory instincts.
Congolese Jonathan Bolingi could be another threat to Bejaia with his four goals this season including one from a penalty, which gave Mazembe the lead in Algeria.
Bejaia captain Faouzi Yaya equalized after half time from another set-piece, a medium-distance free-kick that left goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo helpless.
Yaya could have finished the first leg with four goals as he wasted three second-half chances, including a one-on-one against the Mazembe shot-stopper.
Although Mazembe boast a 15 win-one draw Confederation Cup home record since debuting in 2004, upstarts Bejaia are convinced they can upset the odds and stun an expected capacity crowd.