(Reuters) - Walid Soliman scored two penalties for Al-Ahly as the Egyptian side claimed a 3-1 victory over Esperance of Tunisia in the African Champions League final first leg in Alexandria on Friday.
Amr Al Sulaya also scored for the home side, but Esperance have a lifeline through a penalty netted by Youcef Belaili as his Algerian compatriot, referee Mehdi Abid Charef, took centre stage.
The visitors were handed the opportunity to halve the deficit when they were awarded a penalty when Ahly goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy raced off his line and crashed into on-rushing Esperance forward Belaili.
Algerian Belaili took the spot-kick himself and drilled the ball low into the bottom corner.
Charef then awarded a third penalty with 15 minutes remaining, again consulting the VAR, after Azaro went down in the box in an off-the-ball incident.
Despite replays suggesting there was little in it, he upheld his decision and Soliman converted.
The second leg will be played next Friday at the Stade Olympique de Rades just outside Tunis as Al-Ahly seek to extend their record of eight Champions League victories.
Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond