Moroccan club Raja Casablanca ended a 15-year wait for an African trophy by winning the CAF Confederation Cup in the Democratic Republic of Congo Sunday despite a 3-1 second-leg loss to V Club.
Raja, who won the last edition of the CAF Cup in 2003, beat V Club 3-0 in the first leg in Casablanca last Sunday and triumphed 4-3 on aggregate in the two-leg title decider.
It was the sixth CAF title for the Moroccans, who have also won the Champions League three times and the Super Cup once.
Abdelilah Hafidi put Raja ahead after 21 minutes on a synthetic pitch saturated by pre-match rain at the 80,000-seat Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa.
The goal left V Club, whose only CAF title came 45 years ago, needing to score five to win the second-tier African club competition.
Jean-Marc Makusu, who started after recovering from a first-leg injury, levelled on the night by slamming a free-kick high into the net during first-half stoppage time.
Raja appeared to be cruising toward overall victory until the Congolese scored twice within three minutes midway through the second half.
Substitute Mukoko Batezadio fired into the net after a goalmouth scramble on 71 minutes and Fabrice Ngoma converted a cross soon after to raise hopes of a sensational comeback.
But Raja stood firm and there were no further clearcut scoring chances for the Congolese, leaving them with an unwanted record of losing three of four CAF finals they reached.
Spain-born Raja handler Juan Carlos Garrido became the first coach to win the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League with two clubs.
He guided Al Ahly of Egypt to a dramatic victory in the 2014 final with the decisive goal against Sewe San Pedro of the Ivory Coast coming after 96 minutes in Cairo.
Victory for Raja also confirmed the dominance of north African clubs in the Confederation Cup, which replaced the African Cup Winners Cup and CAF Cup competitions in 2004.
They are the fourth Moroccan club to lift the trophy after FAR Rabat (2005), FUS Rabat (2010) and Moghreb Fes (2011) and the 10th north African winners in 15 finals.
V Club, who won at home and drew away against Raja in the group stage, had hoped to emulate compatriots and arch domestic rivals TP Mazembe, winners of the 2016 and 2017 finals.
However, the odds were stacked against them as only Mouloudia Alger of Algeria had overcome a three-goal first-leg deficit in 108 previous home-and-away CAF club finals.
Raja will start defending the title on December 16 with a round-of-32 home fixture in the 2018/2019 edition against Silver Strikers of Malawi or Cercle Mberi Sportif of Gabon.
(Goal.com) The 33-year-old forward head-butted an AS Vita player after last Sunday’s Confederation Cup final, first leg in Casablanca
Caf have slapped Raja Casablanca striker Moussine Iajour with a three-match suspension for head-butting an AS Vita player last Sunday.
Iajour was shown a red card following the incident that happened after the match which Raja won 3-0. While the red card already sidelined him from this Sunday’s return leg in Kinshasa, Iajour will have to serve his suspension for two more Caf inter-club matches.
Caf have also come hard on Raja by imposing a $5 000 fine after their fans halted play for three minutes due to reduced visibility caused by excessive smoke from flares.
(BBC Sport) Morocco's Raja Casablanca beat AS Vita Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo 3-0 on Sunday in the first leg of the 2018 African Confederation Cup final.
In front of 45,000 fans, including Morocco's head coach Herve Renard, Raja made the most of home advantage to secure a big lead ahead of the second leg.
The result also keeps Raja coach Juan Carlos Garrido on track to becoming the first coach to win the African Confederation Cup with two clubs.
The Spaniard also guided Al Ahly of Egypt to success in the second-tier African club competition four years ago.
Soufiane Rahimi scored twice for Raja Casablanca, his first goal coming two minutes after the break, as he pounced on a back-heel from Mahmoud Benhalib to poke the ball home.
There was then a brief delay to play to allow smoke from a flare to clear, and when they resumed, Raja added to the score.
Rahimi's second came after 61 minutes, a strong shot from outside the area giving the hosts a 2-0 lead.
Things got worse for the visitors when Yannick Bangala Litombo gave away a penalty two minutes later and was sent off for two yellow cards.
Mahmoud Benhalib put the spot-kick away to make it 3-0 to Raja and become the top-scorer in the competition this season with 12 goals.
Even with 10-men, Vita Club pushed forward, refusing to make it easy for the hosts.
At the final whistle, there were mass celebrations on the pitch from the Raja players as Vita Club's contingent expressed their unhappiness to the referee.
The result leaves AS Vita Club with a big challenge when they host the second leg in Kinshasa on Sunday 2 December.
(Africanfootball.com) Raja Casablanca will square off with AS Vita Club in the 2018 CAF Confederation Cup final first-leg match on Sunday.
The encounter is scheduled to take place at the Stade Mohammed V in Morocco's capital city, Casablanca.
Raja advanced to the final after overcoming Nigerian outfit Enyimba 3-1 on aggregate in a semi-final tie last month.
The Moroccan giants are looking to win the Confederation Cup for the second time having won it in 2003.
They are undefeated at home in this year's competition having recorded five wins and two draws in Casablanca.
Mahmoud Benhalib and Mouhcine Iajour have both netted for Raja in the tournament and they will look to inspire their team to victory.
Meanwhile, Vita Club advanced to the final after beating Egyptian club Al Masry 4-0 on aggregate in a semi-final tie last month.
The DR Congolese giants will be looking to win the Confederation Cup in their maiden appearance in the final of the competition.
They have struggled on the road in the competition having recorded only one win, three draws and two defeats.
Fabrice Ngoma and Jean-Marc Makusu Mundele are key players for the Black Dolphins and they will be keen to help their team win away.