By Grace Chingoma
Zimbabwe internationals, Khama Billiat and Willard Katsande, edged closer to the CAF Champions League final when Kaizer Chiefs claimed a shock 1-0 away victory over Moroccan side, Wydad Athletic Club.
The Amakhosi secured a priceless lead, against all expectations, which helped them put one foot in the final of the biggest club game in African football.
They will host them this Saturday at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
Reports indicate Chiefs will be allowed to grant some of their fans entrance into the giant stadium to watch the big match.
Fans have not been allowed to watch football games in South Africa since the outbreak of Covid-19.
Wydad were allowed to have 5 000 fans, for the match against Chiefs after CAF granted their request for supporters to attend the game.
The same privilege was granted to Esperance when they hosted record champions Al Ahly of Egypt in the first leg of their semi-final at the Olympic Stadium in Tunis.
The Cairo giants won the match 1-0.
CAF revealed on Friday, on the eve of both matches, that Esperance and Wydad requested for the presence of fans, in their stadiums.
“CAF has approved the attendance of 5000 supporters for the matches Esperance (Tunisia) v Al Ahly (Egypt), and Wydad (Morocco) v Kaizer Chiefs (South Africa), TotalEnergies CAF Champions League semi-final first leg, scheduled on Saturday 19 June 2021,” the statement read on the continent’s football controlling body’s website.
“Esperance faces Al Ahly at Stade Olympique De Rades, Tunis, while Wydad receives Kaizer Chiefs at Complexe Mohamed V Stadium, Casablanca.
“This is after receiving an application from the host member and approvals from governmental and health authorities in Tunisia and Morocco. CAF has stressed that all medical precautions should be followed at all times in respect to CAF Covid-19 health protocols.”
Former Zimbabwe captain, Katsande, travelled to Morocco and featured in the stunning win while Billiat, who is injured, was not part of the team.
Amakhosi forward, Samir Nurkovic, who had struggled for goals under former coach, Gavin Hunt, who was fired after a poor run, scored the priceless goal, in the 34th minute.
He was set up by Njabulo Blom.
Chiefs’ goalkeeper, Bruce Bvuma, was forced to make a string of stunning saves to deny the home team, who dominated possession, and created a number of chances.
Billiat’s season has been affected by injuries but he made impressions, in the earlier rounds, of the Champions League matches.
He scored an important goal against AC Horoya of Guinea to help the Soweto giants book a place into the last eight.
Kaizer Chiefs began life under new coach, Stuart Baxter, in the best way possible.
Although the Englishman travelled with the team, he did not sit on the bench, as he is still to get his work permit.
His assistant coach, Arthur Zwane, who has transformed the team since Hunt was axed, was in charge of the game.
“We came here to do the business and we did exactly that. We are happy with the result, but we know it’s not yet over,’’ Zwane told the club’s official website.
‘’We have the second leg back home in Johannesburg and we will try and finish it off there. We’ve done what we came here for, we kept a clean sheet and we wanted a goal or two. The one is okay.
“They will open up a bit when they come to play us and we will try and punish them. We have another 90 minutes, it will be difficult. “We were very disciplined and we hope to keep a clean sheet at home as well.’’
Goalkeeper Bvuma’s man-of-the-match performance was key, as was the performance of defensive players like Katsande, but he felt the whole team deserved credit.
“Everyone gave 100 percent, I’m happy with the result and with the clean sheet. We know it’s not over, it’s only halfway,’’ said Bvuma.
“We just have to keep going and working hard.’’
Meanwhile, in the Zambian Super League, the former champions Nkana heaved a huge sigh of relief on Saturday, after they steered clear of the relegation zone.
This followed a 2-0 victory against Buildcon at Nkana stadium.
The Red Devils managed four points, in one week, to secure their place in the top-flight league, next year.
They are home to the Zimbabwean quartet of goalkeeper Talbert Shumba, Tichaona Chipunza, Kelvin Moyo, Jimmy Dzingai and Takudzwa Chimwemwe. The Herald