Kaizer Chiefs overcame Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca on Saturday despite losing Daniel Akpeyi and Samir Nurkovic to red cards.
CAPE TOWN – A five-star performance by nine-man Kaizer Chiefs saw Moroccan giants Wydad Casablanca suffer a shock 1-0 defeat at the FNB stadium in the CAF Champions League Group C match, on Saturday evening.
With this result in their penultimate group stage clash, Chiefs, who finished the match with nine players after two red cards, have miraculously kept their hopes alive of reaching the knockout stages.
Before the match, Wydad had already booked their spot in the quarter-finals. This was Wydad’s first defeat in the Group C competition.
Just when it seemed Chiefs would finish the match victoriously with 10 players, they were further reduced. Striker Samir Nurković picked up a second yellow card, and he was sent off for an early shower.
Chiefs bravely held out despite some rash physical play by the visitors, who looked visibly shaken at the end.
In the opening minutes, play swung like a pendulum from one end of the field to the other, although neither side came close to scoring as defences had little difficulty in coping with the early attacking sorties.
Chiefs dominated in the opening 20 minutes, and during that time, had four shots at goal, but none were on target. They managed two corners but could not capitalise from the set-piece platforms.
By this time, the match was a shade ill-tempered, and in the 13th minute, Amine Farhane (Wydad) and Nurković (Chiefs) were booked, after a heated confrontation.
The match took a dramatic turn four minutes ahead of the break when Egyptian referee Ibrahim Nour El-Din red-carded Chiefs goalkeeper Nigerian Daniel Akpeyi, who at the time was well outside his penalty area, playing in a sweeper’s role.
After Wydad had kicked the ball upfield, Akpeyi caught the ball a stride or two outside his penalty area. The goal could well have bounced into the Chiefs goals if Akpeyi had not intervened.
Chiefs’ stalwart keeper Itumeleng Khune replaced Akpeyi between the sticks and striker Lebogang Manyama was sacrificed.
The resultant free-kick, taken by Wydad’s French midfielder Sofian El Moudane, skimmed the outside of the upright and the teams changed ends with both sets of defences safely intact.
After the break, the North African giants suffered a setback just three minutes into the second half, when Chiefs’ captain Bernard Parker scored after a speculative crossfield kick by midfielder Nkosingiphile Ngcobo.
The ball was deflected by the Wydad defence and then bounced awkwardly for unmarked Parker, who dived and headed the ball across the goalmouth, seemingly for his striking partner Nurković. Instead, the ball carried wide of Wydad goalkeeper Aissa Sioudi and rolled into the net (1-0).
In the ensuing play, Wydad created pressure spells, and several scoring chances emerged. However, none were clear-cut. By the hour mark, Wydad had already forced seven corners, but Chiefs’ defence held out.
The replacement keeper Khune single-handedly denied the opposition twice with brilliant saves.
Chiefs showed tremendous character to close out the match despite some thundering tackles, which mostly went unpunished as the visitors failed to make their numerical advantage count.