Samir Nurkovic warns Kaizer Chiefs: It's not over yet
First leg goal-scorer Samir Nurkovic has cautioned Kaizer Chiefs that their semifinal tie is far from over yet‚ and that they still have a job to do protecting their 1-0 lead against Wydad Casablanca in the second leg at FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Chiefs‚ in character with most of their startling run through a competition they had never previously reached the group stage of‚ were far from perfect in their away leg at Stade V Mohamed in Casablanca.
What was lacking in finesse – never the most important ingredient in such a tie – was made up for by the far more crucial fight and discipline sticking to a defensive gameplan against their crack opponents.
The approach the team takes to the second leg (kickoff 6pm) will be crucial.
Chiefs again cannot play a free-flowing game – an open second leg would play into the hands of dangerous Wydad‚ given that the 2017 champions need goals.
Amakhosi also do need to find the balance between overly sitting back – which can invite Wydad’s fast‚ highly technical forwards to pick them apart – and applying pressure on the Moroccan outfit in the other direction.
The cries from Chiefs’ players and technical staff after the first leg win could be clearly heard in the online-streamed coverage of the match of‚ ‘It’s not over yet’‚ even as the final whistle had just blown in Casablanca.
“It was a great team effort and I was really happy to have contributed to the victory‚ but we can’t be celebrating because it’s only half time‚” Nurkovic‚ whose 34th-minute goal separated the teams‚ said.
“When we play them at home we have to be sure to win that game as well.
“Everyone was happy with the result. They had to be. It’s a really good result away from home and it’s a semifinal first leg of the Champions League.
“It was really a good effort from each and everyone in the team. And we have to continue with the same fighting spirit in the second leg.”
Chiefs were the first South African club to play in a match with video assistant referee (VAR)‚ and had a positive experience.
Nurkovic’s goal was initially ruled offside by the assistant referee‚ but replays showed the Serb was about a metre onside‚ and his goal was crucially allowed to stand.
“It is important because it’s going to be less cheating. And if it’s not important then this league‚ one of the biggest in the world‚ wouldn’t be using it‚” Nurkovic said of the presence of VAR in the Champions League semifinals.
Chiefs had a three-week rest from their two wins earned at the end of the DStv Premiership campaign under caretaker-coach Arthur Zwane‚ after Gavin Hunt’s dismissal‚ saw them scramble a morale-boosting top eight place.
Wydad‚ in contrast have had no such fortune‚ playing midweek league matches ahead of both legs of the semifinal tie‚ as Morocco’s Botola ends late.
They had tough encounters in a 0-0 draw against Renaissance Zemamra last Wednesday‚ then beat RSB Berkane 2-0 this Wednesday night.
Amakhosi’s freshness seemed to work in their favour in Casablanca‚ putting in a Trojan-like shift to contain Wydad‚ despite Chiefs’ much-circulated statistic of 22 percent possession to 78.
They will aim for another supreme effort at FNB.