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Friday, 28 February 2020

VAR controversy engulfs African Champions League final as Ahly take advantage

Hatem Maher , Saturday 3 Nov 2018
Soccer Football - African Champions League Final - First Leg - Al Ahly vs Esperance Sportive de Tunis - Borg El Arab Stadium, Alexandria, Egypt - November 2, 2018 VAR displayed on the big screen before the match REUTERS
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Views: 2982

The video replay technology was used for the first time in the Champions League as the Confederation of African Football (CAF) sought to ensure a smooth and error-free final between Egypt's Ahly and Tunisia's Esperance.

However, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) took center stage for the wrong reasons as record eight-time champions Ahly ran out 3-1 winners in the first leg of the Champions League final at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium on Friday.

It seemed as if the VAR, in this case Gambian referee Bakary Gassama, deemed two penalties given to Ahly by Algerian official Mehdi Abid Charef either side of the interval harshly-awarded.

The first was awarded on the half-hour mark when Moroccan striker Walid Azaro tumbled to the ground as he tried to skip past Esperance keeper Moez Ben Cherifia, with television replays suggesting that the contact between both men was minimal.

Charef blew for a second with 13 minutes remaining when Azaro fell in the area after tangling with an Esperance defender in anticipation of a long ball. Winger Walid Soliman converted the two penalties.

On the two occasions, Charef went to the pitch-side monitor to watch a replay. He appeared to argue with Gassama, taking long to review the incidents before eventually upholding his original decisions, enraging Esperance's players.

The visitors themselves scored their solitary goal via a second-half penalty from Youcef Belaili but Charef was not called by Gassama to watch a replay.

"It's sad to only talk about the referee since the end of last night's match. It's sad for African football," Esperance said on their verified Twitter account.

"This match broadcast worldwide is supposed to be the showcase of African football."

Esperance coach Moïn Chabani accused Charef of bias, saying he had deliberately yellow-carded key duo Chamseddine Dhaouadi and Franck Kom because he was aware they would miss the second leg due to automatic suspension.

He also said the VAR was set up in Cairo, implying that it was used to help Ahly rather than ensuring justice.

While many of Ahly's supporters took to the social media to insist that their side were always victims of glaring refereeing errors in the past, the club itself refrained from making any comments about Chabani.

However, the Cairo giants' French coach Patrice Carteron insisted his side would need "special protection" in the second leg, which will take place in Rades on Friday.

"We will ask for special protection for our team in Tunisia. I hope the Tunisian government will take effort to make the confrontation a football match, not a war in the stands," he said.

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