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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Nurkovic goal leads to shock Kaizer Chiefs victory at Wydad in CAFCL semifinal first leg

All the odds and expectations were against South African side Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday, but Amakhosi took their one chance of the match while keeping Wydad Casablanca from having any clear cut opportunities, escaping the Stade Mohammed V with a stunning 0-1 victory in the first leg of their CAF Champions League semifinal clash on Saturday. Suffering through a disastrous league campaign in the DStv Premiership, now Chiefs unbelievably have a good chance to make it into the CAF Champions League final with a valuable away goal secured to take back to Johannesburg for the second leg.

From the beginning it was clear that Chiefs had a plan to defend against the powerful Wydad attack by conceding the flanks and allowing their strong defensive line to deal with any crosses and services into the box. It was a game plan that the hosts were befuddled by and could not figure out for the entire match. The visitors did everything they could to disrupt Wydad and after the first 20 minutes, the Reds started to throw more players forward with the assumption that Chiefs had abandoned all intentions of making any forays forward.

However, Wydad paid dearly for falling asleep at the back and were caught bringing too many players forward in the 34th minute. Soon after Chiefs goalkeeper Bruce Bvuma made the first of many reaction saves from a Muaid Ellafi header, full back Siyabonga Ngezana lofted a ball down the right flank and found talented young midfielder Njabulo Blom. Blom got his cross past the Wydad full back and found Samir Nurkovic, who was inexplicably left wide open and first timed a blast past Wydad keeper Ahmed Reda Tagnouti. The goal was initially ruled offside but the replay showed that Nurkovic measured his run perfectly and VAR confirmed that he was just behind the line of Blom when the midfielder played the ball.

Wydad struggled to recover from the shock of going down, with Aymane El Hassouni’s free kick the only threat between the goal and halftime, Bvuma parrying the shot out of play. From then on Chiefs created an inpenetrable bunker that the hosts failed to break down. Wydad star striker Ayoub El Kaabi, who was brilliantly held in check all match, latched onto a cross in the 57th minute but Bvuma recovered well to keep El Kaabi’s shot out from a tight angle.

That was about as close as it got for Wydad. El Hassouni stung a curling shot in the 64th minute that Bvuma kept out, but the young Chiefs keeper did not have to pull off any incredible saves and dealt with Wydad’s hopeful efforts well. Wydad had several free kick opportunities but failed to challenge Bvuma and lacked the final ball that was necessary to unlock the Kaizer Chiefs bunker.

Highlights from the match are below.