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Kaizer Chiefs defend like their lives depend on it to stun Wydad and reach Champions League final

Kaizer Chiefs have advanced to the final of the Caf Champions League.
Kaizer Chiefs have advanced to the final of the Caf Champions League.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Kaizer Chiefs have made history, and the manner in which they did it will defy explanation in the record books, again defending with unrivaled determination to grit out a 0-0 Caf Champions League semifinal second leg draw against Wydad Athletic and reach the final.

The shock package of the 2020-21 Champions League, who had never reached the group stage previously, and suffered a miserable domestic season, will most likely meet Pitso Mosimane’s Al Ahly in the June 17 final at Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca.

In the end, as Chiefs barely managed an attack on Saturday, even in their home leg at FNB Stadium. However they again defended, harassed and fought for every inch of ground to contain Wydad, as Samir Nurkovic’s 34th-minute strike in Casablanca last Saturday separated the teams.

Wydad, the 2017 winners of the competition, will only be left to wonder in amazement how, given their glut of possession and chances over the two legs, they somehow were freakishly denied a rare home final.

Chiefs had to make two enforced changes, as their goalkeeper hero from the first leg, Bruce Bvuma, and Leonardo Castro, were left out injured.

Daniel Akpeyi came into goal, and Nkosingiphile Ngcobo into the attack. Anthony Akumu also replaced Erick Mathoho at centreback.

The brains trust of caretakers Arthur Zwane and Dillon Sheppard on the bench, and Stuart Baxter in the stands, did tweak the 3-5-2 formation from the first leg.

Chiefs retained three centrebacks - Siyabonga Ngezana, Daniel Cardoso and Akumu - and wing-backs Reeve Frosler and Yagan Sasman. Willard Katsande and Njabulo Blom became a pair in midfield, Ngcobo, Samir Nurkovic and Bernard Parker making a front three in a 3-4-3.

Chiefs, as they did in Casablanca, rode their luck plenty in the opening half.

If Amakhosi had been hoping to produce a tight contest, the start to the game would have been more open than the home side might have been pleased with. The two teams got in early jabs at each other in a fairly end to end start.

Chiefs’ defence looked a notch less than watertight from the opening minute when, from dangerous left wing Mohamed Ounajem’s cross Anthony Akumu's header skimmed back, dangerously across the goalmouth.

At the other end, from Ngcobo’s corner, Nurkovic steered a volley past the upright.

Akpeyi almost got his side in all sorts of problems. Playing a goal-kick short to Cardoso and receiving a return pass, the keeper attempted another pass that found Wydad’s Yahya Jabiane, allowing Wahid El Karti a shot that was fortunately into the arms of Akpeyi.

Frosler beat a left-back Yahia Attiyat to the goal-line and crossed, Parker headed wide. From there, Wydad took control of the middle of the game.

Ounajem found space on the edge of the area and struck at Akpeyi. Midfielder Aymane Hassoumi then struck a vicious drive that had Chiefs’ keeper stretching.

Tanzanian winger Simon Msuva had a shot blocked, the rebound falling to striker Ayoub El Kaabi, who struck powerfully at Akpeyi from a prime position.

Jabiane’s dipping strike was awkwardly palmed for a corner by Akpeyi before the break.

Back from the break the one-way traffic continued in the direction of Chiefs’ goal.

Just before the hour the irrepressible Ounajem, now deployed on the right, turned Yagan Sasman inside out and crossed, Jabiane heading inches over.

Amakhosi needed apply some form of pressure in the other direction to get a toehold back in the game. In the 62nd Frosler’s cross from deep found Nurkovic to shrug past a marker, his ground-wards header bouncing towards the top-right corner, Wydad keeper Ahmed Tagnaouti stretched to make a rare stop.

Chiefs did stabilise to some extent from there, crucially getting the foot on ball to some movements out of their half. Still it was the Moroccan club threatening most, Hassoumi’s chip into the box being headed across the face by El Karti, Al Kaabi unable to connect a header at the far post.