The Africa Cup of Nations Group F match between Tunisia and Mali was plunged into chaos on Wednesday after the full-time whistle was blown twice before the 90th minute.
The game itself was a tale of two penalties as Ibrahima Kone converted his attempt after a handball, but Tunisia’s Wahbi Khazri could not follow suit as his effort was saved by Mali goalkeeper Ibrahima Mounkoro 13 minutes from time.
Zambia referee Janny Sikazwe then initially blew for the end of the game with 85 minutes on the clock, his timekeeping obviously letting him down. But after correcting himself he still ended the match in the 90th minute, despite a number of stoppages in the second half, including two VAR checks.
Tunisia were furious and officials stormed the pitch in protest, but the man of the match trophy was handed out and the post-match news conferences in full swing before Confederation of African Football (CAF) officials decided the remaining minutes should be played.
Mali came out onto the pitch to play 40 minutes after the controversy began, but Tunisia refused to play on and Sikazwe ended the game for a third time.
Tunisia head coach Mondher Kebaier, when asked why his players refused to restart the match for a second time after referee Sikazwe’s earlier mistakes, said: “For Tunisia, it is clear that Mali was able to convert its penalty and we couldn’t score an equaliser. He stopped and ended the match. The man told us to go to our dressing room.
After a dull first half, Mali made a bright start to the second and after just a minute were awarded a penalty when Boubacar Kiki Kouyates shot struck the hand of Elyas Skhiri as the Tunisia midfielder turned his back on the ball.
Kone then stepped up to easily convert the penalty and give his side the lead.
Bronn forced a first save out of Mali goalkeeper Ibrahima Mounkoro with a 35-yard drive that he had to push away for a corner, but Tunisia had an even better chance to equalise.
It was Moussa Djenepo who handled the ball this time and, after consulting VAR, Sikazwe awarded the spot-kick. However, Khazri’s fierce shot was beaten away by Mounkoro as the keeper made an excellent stop.
Mali finished the game with 10 players after a harsh red card for El Bilal Toure when he challenged for the ball with Dylan Bronn and was fractionally late.
The result follows the trend of 1-0 win at the finals, with this the seventh in the 10 games played to date.
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