Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane wary of underdogs Kaizer Chiefs in Champions League final

17 July 2021 - 13:05 By March Strydom
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Al Ahly head coach Pitso Mosimane.
Al Ahly head coach Pitso Mosimane.
Image: Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Pitso Mosimane has said that Al Ahly need to respect the prickly rank underdogs in Saturday’s Caf Champions League final, Kaizer Chiefs.

Some ex-Ahly legends have suggested their old team, the record nine-time and defending Champions League holders, need to show up to win a seeming mismatch at Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca on Saturday (kickoff 8pm in Morocco, 9pm SA time).

Mosimane has cautioned of Chiefs’ awkward football.

Chiefs showed in their 1-0 aggregate semifinal shock of Wydad Athletic they have no qualms, aware of their lack of pedigree and experience at this level, of unashamedly throwing their existence into defence mode.

The team who had never previously reached a Champions League group stage, have two other potential straws to clutch at as potential advantages.

The DStv Premiership ended six weeks ago.

On the other hand, Ahly, in a gruelling season in which they have also competed in the Fifa Club World Cup, have 11 matches remaining, facing the distraction of trailing Zamalek by 10 points (with four games in hand) in the Egyptian Premier League.

Also, new head coach Stuart Baxter’s work permit coming through means Amakhosi are much more unpredictable.

Baxter’s presence might also instil some psychological wariness from Ahly’s players, as he was the coach who oversaw also rank underdogs Bafana Bafana’s 1-0 shock of Egypt in the last-16 at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

“What do I fear most from Kaizer Chiefs? It’s not about the fear, it’s about reality and about respect for the opponents,” Mosimane said in his pre-match press conference beamed digitally from Casablanca on Friday.

“The reality is they play very good football in terms of their own way of playing. And you have to respect their way of playing.

“Because their own way of playing made them go through Wydad, and Wydad are not a small team. And their own way of playing helped them to go through Simba, and Simba are not a small team.

“And how do you come to the final if your way of playing is not effective?

“We know they are very strong on counterattacks, very strong on set pieces, free-kicks and corner kicks.

“And we know they are very strong on crosses. And most of the things are aerial strength. And they also have intelligent players in terms of ‘Nurko’ [Samir Nurković], who likes to take his own position for diagonal balls.

“Leonardo Castro is very good, so is Khama Billiat. Bernard Parker is very good in delivery of set pieces.

“And they have got hard-working midfielders. And their goalkeeper also, if ‘Itu’ [Itumeleng Khune] plays, is very good on counterattacks [with his distribution].

“They are a good team. They are a big team. We have to respect them. Because if you want to win, you have to respect your opponents.”

Mosimane, arriving in September after a bombshell move from Mamelodi Sundowns in September 2020, steered Ahly through a 5-1 aggregate semifinal win against Wydad in the semis of the 2019-20 Champions League, winning the final 1-0 against Zamalek in Cairo.

He is seeking his third title in Africa’s premier club competition having also won it with Sundowns in 2016.

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