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Blow to Esperance as CAF orders repeat of Champions League finals

CAF has ordered the repeat of African Champions League final between Esperance and Wydad Casablanca to be replayed at a neutral venue after this month’s Africa Cup of Nations.

Tunisian club Esperance were initially handed the title after Moroccan side Wydad Casablanca walked off an hour into last week’s return match in Tunis because VAR was unavailable to judge a disallowed equaliser.

Holders Esperance were leading 1-0 in the 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.

“The playing and security conditions were not met during the second leg of the CAF Champions League final, preventing the match from reaching its conclusion,” CAF presidential advisor Hedi Hamel said yesterday following a lengthy executive committee meeting in Paris.

Tunisian media reported that officials were aware that the VAR system was not working, but the players seemingly did not know.

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 with his shoulder.

The Moroccan team insisted that the Gambian referee check with VAR, apparently unaware that the often controversial system was unavailable.

Wydad substitutes and coach Faouzi Benzarti joined in the protests, while plastic bottles containing liquid were also flung toward the visiting players and staff as tempers flared.

The turmoil in Africa’s premier club competition comes just over two weeks before the start of an expanded 24-team Afcon finals in Egypt.

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