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Benin: Review of first half of the championship – At a glance

The first phase of Benin’s Super Ligue Pro soccer league came to a close on April 7, with a number of surprises in store. Dragons FC dominate the standings, followed by Dadjè FC.Defending champions Coton FC and runners-up Loto-Popo had a mixed first half, given the public’s expectations.

 

170 goals were scored in 96 matches, for an average of 14 goals per day. Nikki US Cavaliers, 9th in the standings (16 points), are the most prolific team with just 15 goals scored. ASPAC have scored just two goals in twelve games.

Requins de l’Atlantique are the worst performers. Bottom of the league, they have conceded 20 goals, lost 7 and drawn 4. Dragons, Loto-Popo and ASPAC have the best defences, conceding 5 goals each.

Dragons finally breathing fire

Dragons de l’Ouémé won the clash of the 12th and final day against Dadjé (0-2) to finish top of the table on 24 points.The result is a glowing one for the club, which got off to a poor start in the competition.“We lost the first two games. With the work of the technical staff, match after match, the automatisms have settled in. Every game was played like a final, with a state of mind that we could beat our opponents,” Kamarou Mamoudou, defender for Les Orange et Noir, tells Sport News Africa.

Having been in turmoil for a decade, with numerous crises dividing its players for a long time, the club’s management has put in place a policy that has enabled the Dragons to reawaken, confided Jude Houetognankou, president of the southern club in an interview with local radio station Océan fm.“We’re not surprised, because we’ve worked hard to earn this position. We’re going to keep it as long as possible. We were last out of the 16 teams in the Super Ligue Pro last season, and that traumatized me for a long time. I’ve thought about the choice of coach and members of staff, the recruitment of players, and I think we’ve been rigorous. I admit that at one point I was hard on the staff, the players and even the fans. That helped us get this result, and now the hard part begins.”

The legendary Dragons de l’Ouémé, Benin’s most successful club (twelve titles), have not won the championship for 21 years. They aim to break the curse this season.We’re going to fight to keep our place at the top of the table,” they say, “because it’s impossible to be Dragons.The players have had a few days’ rest, and training has resumed. They’ll have to work three or four times harder to get there. We’re not going to add to the squad, but we’re going to reveal the young talents who haven’t had any playing time”, confided the club’s CEO.

Coton FC in trouble

Two-time defending champions Coton FC have had a complicated start to the competition.The Ouidah-based club, with 5 wins and as many draws, are 6th in the standings.Their coach, Frenchman Victor Zvunka, has some regrets about the first half of the championship.“Against Dadjè FC, we had so many chances without scoring. That’s our biggest flaw, even more so than last year, because we’re on a run of draws that we should have won. The match against the Dragons was the trigger. When you see a referee two metres from the action and he doesn’t give you a penalty, he puts you in a difficult position. The team hasn’t been rewarded for all their efforts, they’re playing better than last year.”

The Frenchman, a former OM defender who has also coached EA Guingamp, Toulon and Guinea’s Horoya, is confident about the rest of the championship.

Leaders Dragons FC are just four points clear of his team. What we need to do better is win more games than we did in the first leg. We had some important players injured and also Romaric Amoussou’s false start for Egypt’s Ismaily SC. With the return of these players, the team will be more solid and we’ll go for first place to retain the title.”

Loto-Popo out to reclaim title, ASPAC down to earth

Loto-Popo had a less impressive first leg, losing to AS Sobemap in the der (0-1). The Lotoboys are still among the leaders, 3rd with 22 points.“Our objective was to finish first at the end of this phase.We’ve let points slip away in our last few games. Our objective is clear before the start of the season: to win back the league title,” confided Olympe Gantin, captain of the seaside town club.

One season follows another, and the ASPAC are in 14th place with 10 points. Over the last five years, the port club has been unable to keep up with its rivals. In twelve games, ASPAC’s attack has scored just two goals.“The balance sheet is catastrophic and it’s normal to be frustrated given that the means are there, but it’s not performing. But just like a good fan, I firmly believe that ASPAC will come back stronger in the second half of the season,” hopes Prosper Awoh, a fan of Les Bleu et Blanc.

“It was a real treat to see this mano à mano at the top”.

The teams have certainly beaten the predictions of fans and observers with the results of this first phase.And the satisfaction of the players off the pitch is appreciable.“There was suspense aplenty and emotions aplenty. It was a real treat to see this mano à mano at the top of the standings. It’s that kind of atmosphere that gives life to this much-loved and controversial championship. 99 players scored and there were fewer refereeing controversies, with only 15 penalties,” says Aliou Toundé, sports consultant on the local championship.

Looking ahead to the end of the season, the sports consultant sees two scenarios.“On the one hand, the heavyweights Coton FC and Loto-Popo could make a comeback. On the other hand, an exceptional scenario would be the continuation of the fine momentum of this season’s surprise teams, Dragons FC, Dadjè FC and Bani Ganse, who are becoming very popular, and have the resources to achieve a feat this season. These teams share invaluable points in common: a close-knit collective, a fervent public and ambitious managers.”


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