Zwane suggests Chiefs will keep defensive tactics, but is he selling a dummy?

Kaizer Chiefs players (left to right) Kgotso Moleko, Willard Katsande and Nkosingiphile Ngcobo train at FNB Stadium ahead of their Caf Champions League semifinal second leg against Wydad Athletic.
Kaizer Chiefs players (left to right) Kgotso Moleko, Willard Katsande and Nkosingiphile Ngcobo train at FNB Stadium ahead of their Caf Champions League semifinal second leg against Wydad Athletic.
Image: Kaizer Chiefs/Twitter

He may be selling an epic dummy, but Kaizer Chiefs coach Arthur Zwane has suggested that Kaizer Chiefs will not deviate too much from a defensive waiting game in the second leg of their Caf Champions League semifinal against Wydad Casablanca.

Chiefs are the rank underdogs, having never previously reached the group stage, in the semifinal tie against the 2017 winners of the competition. They were unabashedly defensive in the first leg in Casablanca.

The approach, looking for chances on the counterattack, was the right one, and they snuck a 1-0 win via Samir Nurković’s 34th-minute strike — unsurprisingly on the counter.

A statistic of 22% possession to Wydad’s 78 has been widely circulated. Getting the balance right in the second leg between defending deep, and applying pressure in the other direction, seems crucial against a team with Wydad’s fast and technical attack, which could pick Amakhosi apart if the Soweto giants get their tactics wrong.

Keeping compact again, but perhaps with a marginally greater emphasis on attack, would seem Chiefs’ best strategy against a team that needs goals.

Zwane confirmed those might be his team’s tactics in the pre-match press conference. His willingness to give up that information might also have been a smokescreen to an attacking outlook, which would have shock value.

“As things stand Wydad are the ones who are chasing — they definitely want to score,” Zwane said.

“And obviously they will be open at the back. It happened even when we played against them in the first leg.

“If you don’t attack you don’t score goals. We managed to score [in Casablanca] because we waited for that moment. We had about three or four chances and managed to convert one of them.

“And hopefully because we are playing at home we will manage to get another one or two [goals] and make sure that we don’t concede, which is the most important thing.

“We don’t have too many goals to protect and if they get one, we’re level. So that is why we have to make sure that we don’t concede.

“But of you are not going to attack you’re not going to score. So we’ll try and defend well and attack at the right time.”

A 3-5-2 formation, with wingbacks Reeve Frosler and Yagan Sasman mostly sitting deep, and covered by a three-man midfield, made it hard for Wydad to get behind Chiefs through the middle and down the flanks in Casablanca.

Keeping the crack Moroccan outfit playing in front of their defensive structure meant that, while Wydad of course enjoyed possession and chances, most of those were not from ideal positions.

How Chiefs tweak that approach on Saturday in the 6pm kickoff second leg might be the most important factor in whether Amakhosi make history reaching a first Champions League final.

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