Leopards drew 2-2 with their Congolese counterparts in Lubumbashi on Friday winning the tie 6-4 on aggregate to progress to the last 16 of the CAF Confederation Cup.
Earlier in the day, the Lupopo fans startled the Leopards players, who were enjoying breakfast, when they arrived at the Grand Karava hotel in four minibuses and hurled insults at them. Speaking about the incident in a post-match interview, Mabunda tells KickOff.com the Lupopo fans motivated rather than discouraged the Lidoda Duvha players.
“Their supporters came to the hotel where we were staying trying to intimidate us, but we took it in a positive manner. So we didn’t find it intimidating at all and it actually motivated us,” the midfielder says.
“They made a mistake when they did that because that just spurred us on… We are mentally strong,” he says.
As if the hostile crowd wasn’t enough for Leopards to deal with, they had to contend with the referee for the better of the second half.
Romualdo Do Rosario Baltazar from Angola may be familiar to some South Africans as he was in charge of Bafana Bafana’s goalless draw match against Japan in November 2009 in Port Elizabeth.
His officiating in the second half was dubious to say the least with some of his decisions drawing whispers of ‘Haai, haai, haai’ in disagreement in the grandstand especially when he awarded Lupopo an indirect free kick inside the box just after the hour mark in controversial circumstances.
Mabunda comments: “The second half was tough for us because the ref turned against us. I agree the penalty he gave them was legitimate because Moses Kwena handled the ball but the indirect free kick given was dubious because it wasn’t a back pass to the goalkeeper.”
Later on, with approximately 10 minutes of regulation time left with Lupopo leading 2-1 and needing one goal to eliminate Leopards, Omony needed medical attention to his right leg after tearing a muscle and he got an opportunity to chat to Baltazar.
“I asked him, ‘How many minutes left?’ and he said to me, ‘10 minutes, but I’m going to add 10 more minutes after that because you are injured’ but I was treated for just three minutes. Luckily for us the fourth official didn’t seem to get the message right and instead added eight minutes,” he says.
Leopards held their nerve, though, to score an equaliser at the death to break the Lupopo hearts and will now face Nigerian side Warri Wolves at the end of this month.
Tiyani wa ka Mabasa in Lubumbashi courtesy of MTN