Al Ahly wins the first leg against Esperance 3-1 | CAF Champions League final
Walid Soliman converted two penalties awarded after the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was consulted as the technology was used for the first time in the African Champions League, with Ahly defeating Tunisia’s Esperance 3-1 in a highly-charged first leg of the competition’s final on Friday.
Midfielder Amr El-Sulaya was also on target as the Red Devils secured a convincing first-leg advantage in Alexandria before a sell-out crowd at Borg El-Arab Stadium, but Algerian referee Mehdi Abid Charef will probably steal headlines after consulting the VAR in two of the three penalties he awarded.
Esperance’s only goal also came via a penalty from Youcef Belaili, albeit without VAR assistance, as the visitors briefly narrowed the gap in the second half before Soliman netted his second of the night with 13 minutes remaining.
Charef appeared to contradict the view of the VAR on both occasions.
He instantly awarded a penalty after Moroccan striker Walid Azaro fell under an apparent challenge from Esperance keeper Moez Ben Cherifia on the half-hour mark although television replays suggested there was a minimal contact.
Charef was called by the VAR to check a replay but he stuck to his earlier decision, with Soliman converting from the spot to break the deadlock.
He appeared firm in giving Esperance a second-half spot kick but was called to check the VAR again in the last penalty he awarded to Ahly on 77 minutes as Azaro fell again after tangling with a defender for a long ball.
Esperance will need to score two goals without reply if they are to win a third continental title. Ahly will be favourites to secure a record-extending ninth crown when the second leg takes place next week in Rades.