Nurkovic stars as Chiefs stun Simba, Ahly sucker punch sinks Sundowns


Johannesburg (AFP) – Kaizer Chiefs stole the show as they, title-holders Al Ahly and Chabab Belouizdad used home advantage to build CAF Champions League quarter-finals first-leg leads on Saturday.

South African club Chiefs stunned Tanzanian visitors Simba 4-0 in Soweto with Serbian Samir Nurkovic scoring twice and creating another goal.

A late goal from Salah Mohsen gave Egyptian and African giants Ahly a 2-0 advantage over Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa in Cairo as they pursue a record-extending 10th title.

Last-eight debutants Chabab Belouizdad of Algeria also triumphed 2-0, against four-time champions Esperance from Tunisia, with Amir Sayoud claiming a chart-topping eighth goal of the campaign.

On Friday, twice champions Wydad Casablanca from Morocco took a big step toward the semi-finals by forcing a 1-1 draw away to Mouloudia Alger in Algeria.

All four return matches will be played next Saturday, the two-leg semi-finals are scheduled for June and Casablanca will host the single-match final on July 17.

Chiefs faced Simba having scored only seven goals in 10 previous Champions League matches and were the only contenders to average less than a goal a game.

Simba, on the other hand, had been impressive qualifiers for the knockout stage, topping a group that included Ahly and conceding just three goals in 10 games.

From the kickoff Chiefs exploited the aerial weakness of the Simba central defenders and headed goals by Eric Mathoho and Nurkovic build a 2-0 half-time advantage.  

– Stood bewildered –  

In the space of six second-half minutes Chiefs doubled their lead as Nurkovic scored again with a close-range shot before Colombian Leonardo Castro beat goalkeeper Aishi Manula with a diving header.

France-born Simba coach Didier Gomes da Rosa stood bewildered on the sideline, praying for an away goal that would give his multi-national outfit a glimmer of hope, but it never came.

Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane likened his previous club Sundowns to a “monster he created that was coming to bite him”, but the fears of the South African proved unfounded.  

Mohammed Taher put the Cairo Red Devils ahead midway through the first half by cutting inside and firing past veteran Ugandan goalkeeper Denis Onyango.

Sundowns dominated second-half possession and were defied several times by the brilliance of Ahly captain and goalkeeper Mohamed el Shenawy before Mohsen delivered the 89th-minute sucker punch.

Ahly and Sundowns have met nine times in the Champions League, starting with the 2001 final, and the Egyptian club have won five of the matches and lost only once.

In Algiers, Belouizdad added Esperance to a list of recent high-profile victims, including five-time champions TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sundowns.

Zakaria Draoui starred for Chabab, scoring the first goal as half-time approached and setting up Sayoud for the crucial second with eight minutes remaining.

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