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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Kaizer Chiefs qualify for first ever CAFCL final as Wydad fail to crack Amakhosi defensive wall

Kaizer Chiefs pulled off the upset of the CAF Champions League by holding off Wydad AC over two legs to achieve their first ever qualification for a CAFCL final, drawing 0-0 in their semifinal second leg at Soccer City in Johannesburg on Saturday. There was little ambition going forward for Chiefs, but the puzzle their compact defense crafted could not be cracked by a Wydad side that gradually lost self belief over the course of the tie. Amakhosi now will attempt to continue their miraculous run at Wydad’s home ground, the Stade Mohammed V, in an attempt to capture CAF’s continental title.

The story was similar to the first leg in the opening half. Kaizer Chiefs gave Wydad plenty of room on the flanks to send crosses in while stacking their penalty area with defenders to dare The Reds to break them down. Each team had a chance within the opening five minutes. A Chiefs corner kick from Nkosingiphile Ngcobo found Samir Nurkovic but the Serbian striker could not wrap his foot around on the volley and sent it wide. Amakhosi keeper Daniel Akpeyi, standing in for Bruce Mvuma, made a dreadful error passing out of the back and turned it over, leading to a golden opportunity for Mohamed Ounajem but the winger could only put his mediocre effort at Akpeyi’s chest for a straightforward catch.

Wydad leading scorer Ayoub El Kaabi also had a couple of excellent chances in the final fifteen minutes of the half. A cross from the right side deflected to El Kaabi for a shot from six yards out but he put it right into Akpeyi’s chest and the ball bounced clear of danger. The best chance for the visitors came in the 42nd minute when Ounajem whipped in a perfect corner kick that bounced through the penalty area, but El Kaabi could not get his feet set and failed to direct the corner on target from six yards out.

It was incredible how Wydad could not figure out a way through the Chiefs defense and WAC gradually lost hope and calmness as they just could not create the breakthrough. Ounajem was the lone source of inspiration and he crafted a 59th minute cross that provided a wide open header for Ayoub El Amloud, but with plenty of time to line up his header, El Amloud headed it over the bar. Nurkovic nearly put Amakhosi beyond reach after sixty minutes with a perfect bouncing header, but Wydad keeper Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti did well to save.

El Kaabi had an open look at a header when a chipped ball was sent into the Chiefs penalty area and nodded across to the striker, but El Kaabi could not get a header on the ball from close range as it appeared he may have been shoved into the goal from behind with no VAR review ordered to provide clarity. From then on Chiefs held out bravely as Wydad lost their confidence and patience, and it was the hosts who celebrated at the final whistle. Wydad lacked any sort of touch in the penalty area on opportunities and El Kaabi in particular was guilty of failing to provide the quality needed for that essential goal.

Highlights of the match are below.