Mamelody Sundowns of South Africa forced the score 0-0. CAF Champions League the semi-final draw for title holder Wydad Casablanca of Morocco on Saturday, despite the first leg ending with nine men.
The visiting club was reduced to 10 in the 43rd minute after a Ghanaian referee looked at VAR at the pitch following an incident in which Neo Maema stepped on a fallen opponent.
Chile’s Marco Allende, who came off the bench with 12 minutes left, received a red card for a tackle after yet another VAR check, having initially received a yellow card.
VAR played a key role in the evasive clash with Peter Shalulile’s goal. sunsets at the 10th minute, appointed by the match officials, then canceled after review.
The result was not surprising given the proximity of previous matches between the clubs in Casablanca, with Wydad won four by one goal, and another was a draw.
The Sundowns will host the second leg in Pretoria next Saturday and will be narrow favorites to advance to the third final. They finished second in 2001 and won 15 years later.
The first half was dominated by the opponents’ defense, with each team hitting only one shot on target out of five attempts.
The Sundowns showed no nervousness despite having to contend not only with very experienced opponents but also with an intimidating crowd of 45,000+ at the Mohammed V Stadium.
Red-clad Moroccan fans cheered and applauded Wydad’s every move, waving huge flags, and whistled and jeered almost every time Sundowns took possession of the ball.
– Coach Esperance leaves –
It was the second match for Casablanca’s Belgian Sven Vandenbroek, the team’s fourth coach this season after Spaniard Juan Carlos Garrido was sacked last week.
Star Vidad forward Buli Sambu one of the top scorers in the Champions League this season with seven goals, the Sundowns have kept him well guarded.
The giant Senegalese raced from close range early in the second half before retiring with an injury after being fouled by Moroccan Sundowns defender Abdelmunaim Butuy.
Substitute Wydad Zuhair El Moutarahi had a good chance of breaking the stalemate soon after, but was thwarted by goaltender Rowan Williams’ extended right leg.
Meanwhile, Tunisia’s Esperance coach Nabil Maaloul resigned after a 3-0 home loss to Egypt’s Al Ahly on Friday in another first leg.
The 60-year-old former national team midfielder has won 20 matches, drawn eight and lost seven in his third spell as manager of four-time African champions.
“I understand the sadness and disappointment of the fans after this heavy loss and I apologize to them,” Maalul wrote in a post on the social network.
South African Percy Thau scored in every half before Mahmoud Kahraba scored in Rades, making Ahly a firm favorite to reach the final after the second leg on 19 May.
However, Switzerland’s Ali coach Marcel Koller insists the outcome of the semi-finals is far from decided.
“We can’t go to the second leg at home thinking we’ve made it to the final. Nothing has been decided,” he said.