Tunisian club win African title after final abandoned over VAR

Johannesburg (AFP) –


Esperance won the CAF Champions League in Tunisia Saturday after Wydad Casablanca refused to continue playing on 60 minutes because VAR was unavailable to judge a disputed equaliser.

The Tunisian were leading 1-0 in the final second leg and 2-1 overall when play was halted, and after a 90-minute delay the referee awarded the match to the home side.

Tunisian media reported that officials were aware before the match that the VAR (video assistant referee) was not working.

It is the first time in the 55-year history of the elite African club competition that a match in the home-and-away final has not been completed.

Wydad believed they had levelled on 59 minutes when Walid el Karti headed a cross into the net. TV replays confirmed he was onside, but might have fouled an opponent.

The Moroccan team insisted that the Gambian referee check with VAR, seemingly unaware that the often controversial system was not available.

At one stage, CAF president Ahmad Ahmad and the bosses of Esperance and Wydad spoke on the side of the pitch without being able to get the match restarted.

The Wydad players and coaches eventually went to the changing room and, after a long delay, the referee indicated that Esperance had been awarded the match.

Esperance, seeking back-to-back titles, took the lead on 41 minutes when Youcef Belaili curled a shot into the net from the edge of the box at the Stade Olympique.

The Tunisian outfit dominated the opening half and fully deserved to lead at half-time in the 60,000-seat stadium.

VAR had played a major role in the first leg in Morocco last weekend, with referrals ruling out a goal by Wydad and later appeals for a penalty.

The Egyptian referee of that match was subsequently banned for six months with CAF saying he gave a "poor performance".