Wydad Casablanca and Esperance de Tunis shared the spoils in the first leg of the Caf Champions League final, as Cheick Comara's header cancelled out Fousseny Coulibaly's opener in a 1-1 draw overshadowed by two VAR calls.
The clash at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat may have lacked in quality for large periods, but it didn’t lack in drama, as the 2017 and the 2018 winners of Africa's premier club competition went toe to toe.
After an opening 40 minutes which were regularly interrupted due to both sides’ incessant fouling and bickering, the visiting Tunisians drew first blood in the North African derby when Coulibaly took advantage of some slack marking to send Moine Chaabani’s side in front, and with a vital away goal.
However, no sooner had the Tunisian outfit gone ahead than Wydad drew level via Ayoub El Amloud’s deflected effort. However, referee Gehad Geresha had spotted a handball in the buildup and chalked off the goal after reviewing the decision pitch side.
The Egyptian official dishing out four yellow cards in the opening 45 minutes.
The game’s overly physical nature meant there was always a risk of a sending off, and so it proved with Wydad’s captain Brahim Nakach receiving his second yellow for a reckless foul inside the opening five minutes of the restart.
There was to be more VAR controversy just before the hour mark when, after a review which took almost two minutes, Geresha turned down a Wydad handball call in the box, to the fury of the home supporters.
Wydad struggled to control proceedings after their skipper’s dismissal, but just when it seemed as though the visitors would secure a massive away victory, Comara powered a header home following a Salaheddine Saidi flick in a well worked set piece.
The draw leaves the final wide open going into next week's return game in Tunisia, as Esperance seek to become the fourth club to retain the Caf CL title.