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Kaizer Chiefs hold off Wydad to reach Champions League final

Kaizer Chiefs hold off Wydad to reach Champions League final

They were battered, bruised and bashed all over the FNB Stadium pitch by Wydad Athletic, but Kaizer Chiefs’ heroes were NOT BEATEN as Amakhosi made history by reaching the Club’s first CAF Champions League final.

The millions of Amakhosi faithful will have had no nails left to bite, their blood pressure sky high and nerves shot, but they will wake up proudly saluting their weary players as their gutsy team somehow held off the Moroccans to secure a sensational semi-final victory.

Wydad huffed and they puffed, but they just could not blow Amakhosi away as Chiefs’ seventh – and most important – clean sheet of the CAF Champions League campaign secured their passage to the tournament’s showpiece finale on 17 July at Morocco’s Mohammed V Stadium.

Chiefs’ squad were battered by a number of withdrawals this week, which saw them enter the clash with just their starting eleven and five substitutes.

With a slender 1-0 lead from the away leg, it was Chiefs who started the game sharpest.

In just the game’s fourth minute a corner kick from Nkosingiphile Ngcobo on the right was flicked wide by Samir Nurković, as the Serbian striker gave Wydad early notice of his threat in the box.

In the seventh minute, Reeve Frosler’s cross was glanced wide by a diving Bernard Parker header, as the Amakhosi looked sprightly.

From then on, though, it was all Wydad for the rest of the first half as they laid siege to the Chiefs goal.

In the 13th minute, Mohammad Ounnajem had Wydad’s first shot on target comfortably saved by Chiefs goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi.

In the 19th minute, Akpeyi was called on far more purposefully, as Chiefs gave Aymane El Hassouni plenty of space down the left wing to lash in a powerful shot from outside of the box, which was arrowing into the top corner before Akpeyi pulled off a brilliant diving save to his left.

In the 29th minute, Wydad dangerman Ayoub El Kaabi had his first sight of goal, seeing his turn and snapshot comfortably saved by Akpeyi.

A minute later at the half hour mark, El Kaabi had an even more inviting chance as he got on the end of a cross from the left, but he fired his snapshot straight at Super Eagles keeper Akpeyi, who again stood firm to deny Wydad.

There was a contentious moment in the 38th minute when Wydad keeper Ahmed Tagnaouti handled the ball outside the box, but the visiting keeper avoided expulsion from the game.

Amakhosi’s defence was under siege as they repelled wave after wave of Wydad attacks.

On a rare foray into the Wydad box, Chiefs’ record CAF Champions League goal scorer, centre back Erick ‘Tower’ Mathoho, saw his header saved by Tagnaouti in the 41st minute.

At the break, Chiefs somehow held onto their slim aggregate advantage.

As the Moroccans became increasingly desperate, Amine Farhane theatrically went down in the box in the 48th minute after a Willard Katsande challenge, but rather than getting a penalty, Farhane was issued a yellow card for diving.

In the 58th minute, Siyabonga Ngezana stayed down after throwing himself into yet another brave defensive header, but he dusted himself up and rejoined the Amakhosi back four to re-enter the battle.

On the hour mark, substitute Muaid Ellafi missed a huge chance for Wydad, as his free header at the back post sailed over the crossbar when he really should have scored.

Chiefs were on the defensive, but they still fancied sneaking a goal on the break and they so nearly did in the 62nd minute when Nurković’s downward header was heading into the top corner from Reeve Frosler’s cross down the right, but the effort was brilliantly saved by Tagnaouti.

As the clock wound down, the Moroccans were increasingly anguished and the Amakhosi increasingly resolute.

The five minutes of added time after the 90 minutes from referee felt like 50, but when referee Jean-Jacques Ngamba Ndala’s whistle signaled the end of the game, it was a shrill whistle that ensured the Amakhosi continue their thrilling assault on continental history.

There were exhausted heroes all over the FNB pitch in black and gold and millions of exhilarated fans from Khayelitsha to Klipspruit who would have been celebrating long into the night.

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