Kaizer Chiefs have given themselves a fantastic chance of reaching the Caf Champions League final after pulling off superb 1-0 win away to Wydad Casablanca in the first leg of their semifinal on Saturday evening.
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The result was a triumph for interim coaching duo Arthur Zwane and Dillon Sheppard, however much input there was from new head coach Stuart Baxter, the Brit sitting in the stands at the Stade Mohammed V, as he awaits his work permit.
Kaizer Chiefs had lost 4-0 to Wydad in the group stages, on neutral territory in Ougadougou, but they were superbly resolute defensively on Saturday, with goalkeeper Bruce Bvuma superb, while Samir Nurkovic’s first half strike was enough to seal the victory, ahead of next weekend’s second leg back in South Africa.
Nurkovic’s well-taken goal was a testament to the introduction of VAR at the semifinal stage of the competition, as an errant linesman’s flag meant the video replays had to intervene to overturn an incorrect offside decision.
The game took on the expected pattern from the start with Wydad dominating possession and Kaizer Chiefs content to sit back and hit them on the break.
The home team probed away without creating too much, with Chiefs solid in their defensive organisation.
Yagan Sasman was given a chance to shine at left back, while Leonardo Castro partnered Samir Nurkovic in attack, with Lebo Manyama out injured.
Bvuma also continued in goal for Kaizer Chiefs, even though Itumeleng Khune and Daniel Akpeyi were both in the squad, and he was forced into a couple of excellent first half saves, tipping over a point-blank header and plunging to his right to palm away a free kick from the edge of the box.
Chiefs, meanwhile, struck with their first shot in anger, as a swift 34th minute break saw Njabulo Blom set up Nurkovic, who drilled home. The linesman’s flag went up by Nurkovic protested vehemently and was proved right as replays clearly showed the Sebian was onside.
Thankfully, VAR is being used at this stage of the competition and the goal stood.
Wydad came close again not long after the break, a header at the back post from Ayoub El Kaabi pushed away by Bvuma.
Kaizer Chiefs also survived a penalty shout from Wydad ten minutes into the second half, as mis-hit clearance from Reeve Frosler bounced up and struck him on the arm, but despite vigorous protests fromthe home team, it was clearly accidental.
Samsan had to go off injured on the hour mark, replaced by Philani Zulu.
In the 64th minute, Aymane El Hassouni rifled in a long range effort, but Bvuma was there again to tip the ball over the bar.