(CNN) -- Egyptian soccer club Al Ahly snatched a late equalizer against Tunisia's titleholders Esperance on Sunday to leave the African Champions League final in the balance.
The Cairo club will travel to Tunis for the second leg on November 17 thankful for the 88th-minute leveler from substitute El-Sayed Hamdy, who canceled out a valuable away goal by Waleed Hichri.
The match was played at an army stadium near Alexandria due to the security problems faced since 74 fans died in February's Port Said tragedy during a match involving Al Ahly and Al Masry.
Some 20,000 spectators were allowed to attend -- only the second time since the deaths that a match in Egypt has not been played behind closed doors.
The Egyptian league has been suspended since February as the club's militant fans -- known as "ultras" -- have promised to disrupt matches in protest against the lack of action taken by the authorities. An inquiry into the Port Said deaths is ongoing.
A minute's silence in honor of the dead preceded a goalless first half on Sunday, but Esperance took the lead five minutes after the break when Tunisia international defender Hichri netted from Khalil Chamam's corner.
Al Ahly, in the final for the first time since 2008's record sixth title success, were denied by a superb point-blank save by goalkeeper Ben Chrifia until Ahmed Fathy set up striker Hamdy.
"I'm satisfied with that draw, the match was very difficult so it felt like a win for us today," Ahly coach Hossam El-Badry told reporters.
"The performance of Ahly players tonight was affected by the long football stoppage in Egypt. It was also difficult for us to arrange friendly games lately."