Kaizer Chiefs have one foot in the Caf Champions League final after winning the away leg of their semifinal against Wydad Casablanca 1-0 in Casablanca on Saturday night.
Samir Nurković’s 34th-minute strike at Casablanca’s Stade Mohamed V earned Chiefs their most heroic victory in recent memory.
Chiefs are the rank underdogs of the semi against the 2017 champions, and one of the best-performing teams on the continent in the recent past.
Amakhosi’s travelling brains trust — Arthur Zwane and Dillon Sheppard on the bench, and Stuart Baxter and Molefi Ntseki in the stands — had the bus unashamedly parked in a 3-5-2 formation.
Chiefs were always going to have to ride their luck. But they also mostly made Wydad play in front of Amakhosi’s defensive structure.
Bruce Bvuma’s form kept him in goal despite Daniel Akpeyi and Itumeleng Khune being available and his saves and heart proved important to the result.
Chiefs did ride plenty of luck in the opening half. Wydad right-wing Mohammed Ounajem’s cross was headed on target by left-wing Muaid Ellafi, Bvuma stopping.
On the break, Njabulo Blom was played down the right and shaped a pass around a defender, who played Nurkovic on-side, the Serb sweeping past goalkeeper Ahmed Tagnaouti. The assistant referee incorrectly raised his flag.
It was Chiefs’ first match with a video assistant referee (VAR), and their experience was a positive one, the correct decision installed after consultation by Senegalese referee Maguette Ndiaye.
The more Wydad piled on the pressure from the break, the more Chiefs absorbed it.
In the other semifinal, holders Al Ahly of Egypt moved a step closer to another African Champions League final after a deserved 1-0 away victory over Tunisian side Esperance in the feisty first leg of their semifinal in Rades on Saturday.
A second-half goal from Mohamed Sherif gave Ahly a potentially crucial away win that they fully deserved after creating the lion’s share of the chances in search of extending their record number of finals appearances in the competition to 14.
The match kicked off an hour late after police fired teargas at rowdy home supporters in the stands, which forced the players from the field during their warm-up.
The return legs will be played in Cairo and Johannesburg respectively on June 26, with the final to be staged in Casablanca on July 17.