Kaizer Chiefs coach Arthur Zwane hailed the herculean efforts of his team in ensuring the club realized its “dream” of reaching a historic first CAF Champions League final.
“It was never going to be an easy journey for us, we knew it was going to be tough to compete against the best teams in Africa. First of all, we just want to thank the man above for giving us the strength and power to get this far. Wydad are a very good team, one of the best on the continent no doubt. They are good in defence and good going forward, but they also have their weaknesses. We knew if you go pound for pound against them and give them enough space, they will punish you. What was key for us was to get to the final, that’s what we were working for. It’s always been our dream, even when I was a player, to win this trophy for the Chairman. Hopefully, God will give us the strength to go on and win this trophy for him,” said Zwane after the game.
The Chiefs coach praised goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi for “coming to the party” in ensuring Chiefs kept their seventh clean sheet of the CAF campaign, and also hailed his entire defence and the rest of the squad for their dogged determination in seeing off Wydad.
“We knew if we can contain them until after 25 mins they will get frustrated and throw a lot of bodies forward and leave spaces for us. And we had chances we could have converted. But we had to control ourselves and manage ourselves properly. We know we did not create enough goalscoring chances and that our energy levels would drop. But the fact we did not concede a goal was good enough for us to reach the final,” said Zwane.
Wydad coach Faouzi Benzarti hailed Kaizer Chiefs’ “unbelievable” defence, which defied his side and earned the Amakhosi a historic spot in the CAF Champions League at the Moroccans’ expense.
“It was the same as the first game. We played well, dominated the game for 90 minutes, created most of the chances and Kaizer Chiefs did not have any chances basically. But I would like to congratulate Kaizer Chiefs on reaching the final. We had the same players, with the same charisma who have scored the most goals in the Moroccan league. We just needed a player to put that last ball into the net. Our players tried their best, but we just could not get there, and we were denied by Kaizer Chiefs’ unbelievable defence,” Benzarti said after the game.
Benzarti was bitterly “disappointed” that Chiefs have deprived Wydad of a final at their home venue in Casablanca.
“We had the chances to make a difference. We did what we were supposed to, we just lacked that one goal. Football is a game to watch and enjoy. You get defence and attack. Kaizer Chiefs defended very well. I always try and make football as enjoyable as possible, but in football there is always one winner and one loser. Congratulations again to Kaizer Chiefs and good luck in the final,” said Benzarti.
Zwane said Wydad would rue their decision to send a weakened team to FNB to face Chiefs in the away group stage game, which Chiefs won to keep their chances of progression in the tournament alive.
“They will regret the day they sent their B team to face us. When you’re on a roll, you need to maintain the momentum or else you pay the price. If they had sent their best team, maybe things would have been different. Now, despite all our challenges we’ve seen God is amazing and does things in mysterious ways. We’ve taken the team to the Champions League final, with so many young players from the development. The young boys gave their all and the experienced players stepped up and we are very happy,” says Zwane.
The Chiefs coach said the Amakhosi know they will again face Al Ahly in the final as “underdogs”, but it’s a position he is comfortable with.
“We are going there knowing again we will be underdogs, but we have three and a half weeks to prepare thoroughly. We want to thank the Lord and everyone who has been with us through thick and thin and who have helped us to make it this far,” said Zwane.