Down and all but out

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar July 31, 2018 17:14

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Down and all but out

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 29th 2018)

Emphatic

A 4-0 trashing inflicted by Casablanca’s Raja Club Athletic (RCA) on (Association Sportive Employés de Commerce) ASEC Mimosas left the Ivorians down and all but out of contention in African competition again. It’s been 20 long years since the best the Ivorians have to offer have tasted glory in Africa’s élite competitions. There’s no sign of that being put right on tonight’s showing, a deserved drubbing by Raja in Casablanca’s Stade Mohamed V.

After weathering an ill-directed Ivorian storm – Anas Zniti hadn’t a save worthy of the name to make – Mahmoud Benhalib opened Raja’s account after 17 minutes, shooting across ASEC keeper, Aboubakar Bamba, from the left of the area. An excellent reverse pass by Soufiane Rahimi, a player who will be tested by better defences, but demonstrated the talent he possesses, created the opportunity.

Within ten minutes Zakaria Hadraf had doubled the lead as Benhalib turned provider after Wonlo Coulibaly and the ASEC captain Ange Gloudoueu comically left it to each other, putting Benhalib through with just the keeper to beat in a two against one situation.
Hadraf got his second, as Rahimi worked an opening on the right and pulled it back for Hadraf to put the contest beyond ASEC moments before half time. The scoring was wrapped up by Benhalib from the penalty spot on 62 minutes after Coulibaly’s clumsy challenge on Rahimi gave the penalty away and captain, Badr Benoun, one of the locally based players to impress Atlas Lions coach Hervé Renard, ensured that Benhalib took the responsibility of taking the penalty after he won the tussle with Rahimi to decide who would take it.

Benoun was proved right, even though it would been apt for Rahimi’s performance to be capped off with the goal he deserved. He had a hand in at least three of the goals.

Bad and Worse

It could have been worse for the Ivorians. As half time approached Benhalib should have doubled his assists tally, but with Senegalese, Bay Ibrahima Niasse, poised to tap in on the left, Benhalib’s square pass inexplicably was far too close to Bamba and the opportunity was squandered. But ASEC Mimosas also suffered bad luck as Ahmed Touré’s header from Gaoussou Samaké’s freekick on the right flank rebounded off the post and Touré could not convert that chance either.

Rahimi impressed with his hard work and assists but was deservedly booked for a tackle from behind on Samaké,.If any scouts or agents attended tonight’s match, hoping to see raw talent determined to express itself and earn a lucrative move abroad, they saw it, but not from the Ivorians. It surely won’t be long before they sniff around Benhalib, Benoun and Rahimi in particular, and perhaps their brightest talent, Abdelilah Hafidi, wasn’t even on the bench tonight.

ASEC started well, but faded very quickly. A header by Ahmed Diomandé from Samaké’s freekick was as close – albeit not very – that ASEC came to troubling Anas Zniti before Hadraf put the match out of ASEC’s reach.

Denial

Shorn of household names, ASEC Mimosas were thrashed. Languishing at the bottom of Group A, with three straight losses and trailing second place by 4 points – the minimum to reach the quarter-finals – there’s little hope for this season’s competition. Having never tasted success in this competition, the odds of that changing are slim with just two group phase matches remaining. If this is not problem, what is?

The Ivorian double winners were once again found wanting in Africa’s second tournament, the CAF Confederation Cup. But when asked if his club have a problem with performing in continental competition, ASEC’s manager César Amani Yao, denied that ASEC had a problem.

“The team that we have this year has plenty of new players and a lot of them don’t have the experience of playing in the Confederation Cup,” Amani explained. “You have to work slowly to consolidate this and in two, three years’ time we will be stronger on the continental scene, not just the domestic scene. It takes time. It’s a new group.”

ASEC’s history tells a different story. Only once have they tasted success in the CAF Champions League, and that was 20 long years ago. They won the resulting CAF Supercup, and that is all. For a giant of Ivorian football that has produced some of the greats of African football, doesn’t that indicate a problem in the continent’s élite club competitions?

Once the pride of Africa, the Académie Mimo Sifcom no longer delivers Yaya Tourés or Salomon Kalous or Didier Zokoras, and tonight it really showed, as without such talent, or even players looking hungry to prove their talent in anticipation of riches in Europe, ASEC’s team looked short on quality and ideas, and got what they deserved – nothing but a thrashing. And there’s no guarantee the future will be bright even though Amani Yao thinks that the Academy is doing fine and that ASEC will deliver in African competition in two or three years.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar July 31, 2018 17:14