Wydad Casablanca overcame having their captain sent off and two VAR referrals going against them to draw 1-1 with Esperance Tunis Saturday in the CAF Champions League final first leg.
Both goals came from Ivorians with midfielder Fousseny Coulibaly giving the Tunisian outfit a 44th-minute lead in Rabat and centre-back Cheikh Comara equalising 11 minutes from time.
Wydad and Esperance meet again next Friday in the Tunis suburb of Rades to decide who wins the elite African club competition and becomes $2.5 million (about 2.2 mn euro) richer.
Spectators and TV viewers will hope for some free-flowing football in the return match with the first leg never reaching great heights due to constant fouling by both sides.
Drawing away makes Esperance favourites to emulate TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Enyimba of Nigeria and Al Ahly of Egypt and win back-to-back titles.
The first leg stalemate was not surprising as three of the previous four meetings between the clubs in the Champions League were also drawn.
A cagey first half before a 50,000 crowd at the Stade Prince Moulay Abdellah in the Moroccan capital suddenly came to life as half-time approached.
Coulibaly scored his second goal of the competition with a close-range shot after his header had been parried off the goalline by Wydad goalkeeper Ahmed Tagnaouti.
Wydad on the wrong side of VAR decisions
Ayoub el Amloud thought he had levelled in first-half stoppage time only for his effort to be ruled out for handball by Ismail el Haddad after the Egyptian referee watched VAR replays.
Wydad were reduced to 10 men just four minutes into the second half when captain and midfielder Brahim Nakach received a second yellow card and was sent off.
There was more VAR disappointment for the hosts soon after when penalty appeals were rejected with the referee deciding the ball hit the shoulder of an Esperance defender, not his hand.
But Wydad never stopped trying and were finally rewarded when Comara completed a brilliantly executed move by powering a header past helpless goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia.
El Haddad took a free-kick that was nodded on by Salaheddine Saidi in a crowded goalmouth and Comara scored his first Champions League goal this season with an unstoppable header.
Mohamed Ounajem could have won the match for Wydad in stoppage time but his hastily struck close-range shot flew over.
Wydad is coached by 69-year-old Tunisian Faouzi Benzarti, who won the competition with Esperance in 1994, the first of his five successes in African club finals.
Egypt’s star Mohammed Salah set to miss friendly against Botswana
Salah finished fourth in the balloting for the FIFA best player award last week
Liverpool star Mohamed Salah “must rest” and will miss Egypt’s friendly against Botswana on October 14, national team coach Hossam El Badry said Thursday. The announcement came days after Salah raised eyebrows by changing his Twitter bio to say he only played for Liverpool, removing any mention of his affiliation to Egypt.
Salah finished fourth in the balloting for the FIFA best player award last week, with two of Egypt’s votes rejected by football’s governing body after they were signed in capital letters. El Badry said he spoke to Salah following a report from the national team doctor on the fitness of the squad’s overseas-based players.
“I agreed with him that it is in his best interests and those of the national team that he rests,” El Badry told local channel MBC Masr. “He won’t be with us at the training camp for Botswana, but God willing, he will be with us for the official matches.”
Salah scored twice on Wednesday as holders Liverpool defeated Salzburg 4-3 at home in the Champions League group stage.
Salah and the Egyptian FA have butted heads before several times, most prominently when a photo of him was plastered on the squad’s plane ahead of the 2018 World Cup, causing sponsorship problems for the star.
El Badry will take charge of his first match as Egypt coach against Botswana following his appointment last month. Egypt begin their qualifying campaign for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations at home to Kenya in November.
Football fans clash leaves one dead and 4 injured in Morocco
one person died of his injuries after “falling from on top of the vehicle”
One person was killed and five injured in clashes between rival football fans after a cup tie near the Moroccan city of Casablanca, local authorities said Wednesday.
“A group of supporters of Wydad Casablanca (club) stopped a vehicle carrying fans of AS FAR Rabat, throwing stones and the situation degenerated,” they said in a statement.
They said one person died of his injuries after “falling from on top of the vehicle” and five others were hospitalised.
Police made six arrests over the violence which followed a 3-1 defeat for the home club. Football violence is common in Morocco costing the lives of supporters in March 2016, after which authorities temporarily cracked down on radical supporters clubs.
Mo Salah and Egyptian FA fall out after vote in FIFA awards goes astray
Salah hinted his disappointment in the Egyptian Football Association earlier today
Egypt’s football association has asked FIFA for clarification after its vote for national icon Mohamed Salah was dropped from the final tally for the world’s best player award.
The results are based on the votes of national coaches, team captains and members of the press in selecting their top three players of the year.
When FIFA released its results, Egypt was curiously absent from the final vote count.
In comments online blame was aimed at Egypt’s football federation for failing to ensure Salah would be given the maximum chance in all votes, although he eventually finished fourth, 20 votes behind winner Lionel Messi. Messi won with 46 votes while Salah scored only 26 in fourth.
Mo Salah hinted at his disappointment through his social media activity, changing his Twitter bio to say he only plays for Liverpool and removing any mention of his affiliation to Egypt.
To add insult to injury, Hany Daniel, the Egyptian journalist in the voting, picked Senegalese forward Sadio Mane, Salah’s Liverpool team-mate, ahead of the Egyptian striker who he relegated to third place behind Cristiano Ronaldo.
Salah posted a conciliatory tweet after saying “no matter how much they try to change my love for you and your people,” referring to Egypt, “they won’t be able to”.
Hours after the controversy, the Egyptian Football Association said it had asked FIFA for an explanation as to why its vote “was not approved”.
The statement released late Tuesday said the association had sent its votes officially to FIFA on August 15 and they were registered on August 19.
Mo Salah and the EFA have butted heads before several times, most prominently when a photo of him was plastered on the squad’s plane ahead of the 2018 World Cup, causing sponsorship problems for the star.
The EFA has been beset with governance issues and was vehemently pilloried by fans for Egypt’s early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations.
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