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AFCON 2021: Mali Edge Tunisia Amid Controversy as Referee Blows for Full Time Early
- Mali continued their run of never losing their opening game of the Africa Cup of nations
- In a hard-fought 1-0 win over Tunisia, the game was marred with controversy which centred around Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe
- The referee blew the final whistle prematurely, before bringing the game back to life; he also handed El Bilal Toure what looked like a very harsh red card
Mali got their AFCON campaign to a winning start as they edged Tunisia 1-0 in a game that was marred with controversy over the referee’s decisions.
Ibrahima Kone’s goal from the penalty spot was enough to settle the game but that was far from the main talking point in the game.
Tunisia had a penalty of their own but Wabi Khazri’s spot-kick was expertly saved by Mali keeper Ibrahim Mounkoro in the 77th minute.
Despite entertaining football action, it was Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe who took centre stage at the Limbe Stadium for some odd decisions.
Initially, the referee appeared to blow for full time, when the clock clearly stated the game was on 85 minutes, before restarting play once again.
He however blew what was the final whistle again on 89 minutes and 43 seconds, drawing furious reactions from the Tunisia bench.
Coach Mondher Kebaier was particularly animated as he rushed to confront the referee while pointing to his watch, seemingly indicating that time was not up.
If anything, the game possibly warranted a large chunk of additional time since Sikazwe had taken time at the VAR monitor before awarding a penalty to Tunisia.
Approximately two minutes elapsed between the incident where Khazri's cross flicked the hand of Moussa Djenepo and the referee awarding the penalty.
There was another slice of controversy towards the end of the game as El Bilal Toure, brought on by Mali for Southampton's Moussa Djenepo, was shown what looked like an extremely harsh red card.
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In the midst of an angry Kebaier and his staff the referee had to be escorted off the pitch by stadium security as Malians continued to celebrate with their fans.
Around 20 minutes later, the Mali players returned to the pitch for the game to restart but were eventually awarded the victory after the Tunisians failed to re-emerge.