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Ten Man Wydad Hold Defending Champions Esperance

Wydad Casablanca battled to a 1-1 draw with defending champions Esperance de Tunis in the first leg of 2018/2019 Africa Champions League final on Friday in Rabat.

The home side had their midfielder and captain Brahim Nakach sent-off early in the second half after a second booking in the closely contested match, but the Moroccan side have goalkeeper Ahmed Tagnaouti to thank for the point.

Esperance dominated possession from the first whistle and fired the first warning shots, with Fousseny Coulibaly forcing a save from Tagnouti in the seventh minute, and Ounnajem doing the same 13 minutes later.

Wydad were always looking to catch the Blood and Gold on the counter and almost succeeded in the 16th minute as Michael Babatunde got the better of Anice Badri, only for the striker to send his shot straight at Ben Cherifia.

The visitors had the first real threat of the match in the 32nd minute, the Tunisians collected a loose ball outside Wydad’s box before a Khalil Chammam- Youcef Belaili combination released Junior Lakosa, but Chammam failed to connect Lakosa’s cross into the net.

Esperance did get the ball in the back of the net in the 44th minute through Coulibally with a close-range shot after his header had been parried off the goal line by Wydad goalkeeper Ahmed Tagnaouti.

Ayoub el Amloud thought he had leveled in first-half stoppage time only for his effort to be ruled out for handball by Ismail el Haddad after the Egyptian referee watched VAR replays.

In the second half, Wydad were reduced to 10 men when captain and midfielder Brahim Nakach received marching orders in the 49th minute for the second yellow card.

The numerical disadvantage did not distract the home side as they created most of the chances while Esperance looked to pounce on the counter.

Walid El Katri was the first man to test the goalkeeper in the 55th minute as he rose high to meet a free kick from El Haddad, but he was denied by Derbali on the line.

In the 64th minute, Karti forced another save from the Esperance goalkeeper before Onunnajem headed just wide six minutes later.

Tannouti was called into action again in the 69th minute, palming a free-kick from Kom over the crossbar, before blocking another good shot from Lokosa three minutes later.

Wydad scored the equalizer courtesy of Cheick Coamara from a free kick taken by Salaheddine Saidi to score his first Champions League goal this season with an unstoppable header.

In the final minutes, there was an end to end action as Karti forced a good save from Cherifia in the 86th minute before Haddad saw his effort coming off the inside of the post a minute later.

Then in the 89th minute, Esperance almost capitalized on another quick break which saw Badri breaking free on the right, but he failed to grab his brace and a late winner as he dragged his shot wide of the far post.

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