ES Tunis crowned CAF Champions in shambolic circumstances
Confusion reigned in the Stade Olympique de Radès on Friday evening as the CAF Champions League final second leg match between holders ES Tunis and Wydad Casablanca was abandoned with just under an hour on the clock with the aggregate score at 2-1 to the visitors.
The tie was level at 1-1 when the teams kicked off in Radès and the home side took the lead in the 41st minute through Youcef Belaili but the restart was brief as chaos descended in the second half, leading the game to eventually be abandoned.
Walid El Karti headed home for Casablanca in the 59th minute, levelling the aggregate score at 2-2, but the referee wrongly ruled his effort out for offside.
The matter was taken to a VAR review, but due to technical issues the system was not working and therefore the initial decision could not be overturned, sparking protests from the visiting fans and Casablanca’s players and staff.
After an hour of uncertainty, match official Bakary Gassama decided to blow the full-time whistle, handing a 2-1 victory and the title to Espérance.
ES Tunis vs. Wydad Casablanca: As it happened:
So....We'll leave it there tonight.
Despite Esperance Tunis claiming to be the CAN Champions League winners, no-one won tonight in Rades with African football, sadly being the loser.
I'm sure this will run and run with Wydad launching an appeal case to CAF. Difficult to offer a truly objective opinion on the situation without having all the relevant information but one can't help but sympathise with the Moroccan side's case...
This has been a bad night for African football.
Irrespective, ES Tunis celebrating the win.... Am sure there will be (there needs to be) a deep and probing investigation as to what happend tonight in Rades.
A very, very undignified way to claim a continental title.
The pitch is now full of photographers as ES Tunis players celebrate. The Tunsian side now celebrating the win with back room staff as confusion remains about the whole episode.
Ref. Bakary Papa Gassama has just removed his track top as the home fans find their voice. Appears a walk over has been awarded to Esperance.
The WAC players have left the pitch with just substitutes remaining. All Esperance Tunis players are still on the pitch. Despite the time being 00:45 now in Rades, no fans seem to have left the stadium.
This, folks is the latest image from Rades. Still no info. from the governing body CAF as to what is happening.
There have also been depressing reports this evening of Moroccan press members having objects hurled at them during the game.
Total confusion reigns in Rades as the players remain on the pitch with no official comment on the situation. Crazy and somewhat depressing scenes here.
Mixed messages coming through now contradicting that ... Hold fire for the moment....
Match suspended it looks like....Looks like there will be no more action tonight....
We're now past the 45' (after the hold up) mark where a definitive decision should have been taken by CAF.
Credit to both sets of fans who have kept singing during the 30' delay.
Definitive decision coming in five minutes. A re-match may now be the likely outcome.
CAF maintain both teams were aware that VAR was not working ahead of the game .... (Not sure how true this may be ...)
The outcome seems to be depending on VAR system being resolved. If VAR can be fixed in the next 15', the game will go ahead and if not we're looking at the match being replayed.
Ref calling the team captains together....
30' of no action now and we hope that the delegates have reached a decision. Will the goal for WAC be reviewed and allowed to stand? Will the game be abandoned? Will we stay as we were with EST 1-0 ahead?
CAF officials still holding an impromptu meeting on the pitch. The CAF president Ahmad Ahmad now talking to the match official with what we hope is a verdict....
Ahmad Ahmad (President of CAF) set to make a decision regarding this crazy situation in "a matter of minutes"
Most fans remaining calm as the 1.000 or so WAC fans making plenty of noise.
VAR not working at the stadium now being offered as a motive for this delay? Technical issues ?
15' now since the last action and no-one seems to know what is happening. Wydad players still demanding that VAR is consulted. The 4 match officials are now talking in the centre of the park.
... and still we wait ....
Is the game being abandoned ? CAF officials now on the pitch ... this is crazy!
This is not a good advertisement for African football !
Still no action in Rades. The match official is in the centre of the pitch, and it appears that WAC players won't continue until VAR is consulted.
The mystery continues ... The ref. has just whistled ...but for what?
If the ref. does now give the goal, he´ll incur the wrath of 50,000 plus passionate Esperance fans.
Play still held up as the match officials discuss the situation. WAC and EST players now seperated after the brief scuffles. One fan even made it onto the running track.
Play still held up as Wydad players and officials losing their cool
Play held up....
Wydad players furious about the ruled out goal demanding that VAR be used to review the ruled out goal (with reason it has to be said)
Hamdou Elhouni on for goalscorer Youcef Belaïli
El Karti was well onside. Terrible decision ! Ref got that badly wrong.
So much smoke on the pitch now, almost impossible to see the EST goalmouth.
Half chance for WAC as Yassine El Kharroubi parrys the ball away from the danger zone. The Moroccan side now looking more ambitious and need to score.
WAC have had two great chances now and spurned both. EST have had one and scored.
Ayman El Hassouni with the effort and the replay confirms that there was no hand ball.
So close for WAC, they appeal for a handball. as the ref. waves the Wydad players away.
More composed play now from Wydad as they enjoy a sustained spell of possession.
Esperance start as they finished the first half, dominating the action.
We're underway again in Rades. Esperance 45' away from retaining their CAF Champions League title
That's the whistle as we head into the break. EST 1-0 WAC
2' of time to be added
Last minute of the half and EST keep maintaining the pressure
What a time to score for the home side. The fans celebrate as flares lead to smoke bellowing across the pitch.
Dangerous free kick for EST ...Belaïli delivers and the ball flicked on forcing Yassine El Kharroubi to tip over
Belaïli fires wide under pressure. The game coming to life now after a tense first 30' or so.
Too many times, the final ball (for both sides) has been the let down tonight. Ayman El Hassouni heads on goal but easy for the Esperance keeper to gather.
El Karti almost puts WAC ahead, forcing his way into the box and unleasing a fierce drive on goal. Bright for WAC. The Moroccan side need to score!
Eric's presection looks accurate from what we've seen so far. As it stands EST will be champions with the away goal.
Whistles ring out...must mean WAC are on the ball...just as the ball breaks to Saad Bguir and once again the Esperance player fails to connect.
Youcef Belaïli looking very bright for EST tonight!
Possession after 25': EST 59-41 WAC (%)
The ball falls perfectly to Bguir, but the EST No. 18 blazes over the bar. Terrible effort.
Poor spell of passing from both teams with possession being conceded too easily. Tremendous noise being generated from the Esperance fans !
Haddad almost gets in behind the EST defenders but Moez Ben Cherifia is quick off his line to collect.
Nothing in terms of goal scoring chances for either side, a tense start here in Rades but ES Tunis looking the more composed team.
The smoke has cleared now but the tension so apparent in the first leg has been carried over to tonight's game. A cagey start here !
Don't forget we do have VAR in the CAF Champions League final.
El Karti fouled by Coulibaly and the Ivoraian is carded
ES Tunis press but the attack snuffed out by the WAC rear-guard. The Tunisian side enjoying the bulk of the early possession as we near the 10' mark.
Whistles ring out as Wydad play the ball around
Great play from Anice Badri who wins a free-kick for his side after nimble footwork. The resulting free-kick comes to nothing.
The Rades pitch still engulfed by smoke from the massive pyro display from the home fans. Visibility levels quite poor at present as Wydad press.
Esperance get us underway in Rades.....
We're seconds away... smoke bellows over the stadium from numerous flares. Great atmpsphere.
Minutes away from kick-off. A packed house here in Rades with a small group of WAC fans making the trip.
...with ES Tunis in their classic red and yellow stripes with black shorts.
Both teams will wear their traditional kits tonight.... WAC in all white.
A mild evening in Rades (on the outskirts of Tunis) tonight with 0% chance of rain.
Tonight's match official is Gambian born Bakary Papa Gassama
Esperance hold the upper hand with the away goal in Rabat last week but may rue not availing of the fact that the Moroccan side played with ten men for the bulk of the second half.
So it's the return leg of the 2018 CAF Champions League winners (ES Tunis) against Wydad Casablanca, who won the title in 2017.
ES Tunis starting XI
Last Friday’s 1-1 draw in Rabat came as some relief for the Moroccan side. Trailing 0-1at the break and reduced to ten men after 50 minutes after Nakach was awarded a red card, the 2017 CAF Champions League winners managed to bag a late equalizer which keeps their hopes alive as they travel to Tunisia. WAC head coach Benazarti acknowledged his sides effort in his pre-match press conference: "We had to make a huge effort to come back and score in the game. I would like to thank my players for the level they have shown despite having a player sent off.
A 1-1 win from the first leg and with a recent CAF Champions League record of eight wins and four draws in their past twelve games augers well for the “sang et or”. The Tunisian side were the better team in Rabat last week and will have been disappointed to offer WAC a life-life with the late Comara leveler. ES Tunis defender Mbarki was in optimistic mood in his pre-game comments: “Tomorrow we play the final round at home and it’s the moment or never to bring a second consecutive Champions League to Tunisia and make our fans proud.”
Casablanca are sure to take their case to the football authorities and demand a replay but as of Saturday morning there was no official word from the Confederation of African Football on the events of the evening before.