Drama At AFCON As Referee Ends Game Twice Before Time.
There was drama at AFCON as the referee twice blew for full-time before the end of Mali’s 1-0 triumph against Tunisia at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Tunisia players refused to return to the pitch to play out the remaining few minutes.
The game should have been decided by two penalties, one of which was scored by Ibrahima Kone of Mali in the 48th minute and the other of which was saved by Ibrahim Mounkoro late in the game from Wahbi Khazri.
While the penalty decisions were dubious — both were awarded for handball – the match’s final phases were rife with controversy.
With five minutes remained on the clock, the referee sounded his whistle for full-time.
Players and coaching staff appeared perplexed when the error was discovered, and Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe signalled for play to resume.
Sikazwe then reduced Tunisia to ten men by dismissing El Bilal Toure with a straight red card.
Although replays revealed the judgement to be severe, the referee did not reverse it when he reviewed it on the pitchside monitor.
With Tunisia pressing for a goal, the game was called off by the referee after 89 minutes and 42 seconds.
Tunisia’s manager and backroom staff were enraged by the decision and stormed onto the pitch, pointing at their watches, to remonstrate with the referee.
The game was not restarted this time, and the referee and his helpers were escorted from the field.
Sikazwe, who was in charge of the 2017 AFCON final, may have forgotten to stop his watch at the water break, according to one plausible explanation.
More drama was to come when it was announced that the game would be replayed 20 minutes after it had ended.
When tournament officials announced that they would restart the game, Mounkoro had already collected his man-of-the-match award and Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba was in the middle of his news conference.
However, as supporters waited in the seats, news surfaced that both teams were refusing to return to the pitch.
Mali eventually returned to the field, appearing ready to play, but Tunisia were nowhere to be found. They reportedly declined to play the last few minutes of the game in protest and would instead file a complaint.
The late drama was far more exciting than anything that occurred during another low-scoring contest.
Only one of the ten games played so far has had more than one goal scored, Cameroon’s 2-1 victory in the tournament opener.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mauritania will play Gambia in the other Group F encounter.