LIMBE, Cameroon — Mali completed a 1-0 victory over Tunisia in a controversial Group F game at the Africa Cup of Nations that was ended prematurely by referee Janny Sikazwe, who later tried to play the final four minutes only for the north Africans to refuse.
Zambian Sikazwe, who officiated at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, initially blew for the final whistle on 85 minutes as he got his timekeeping all wrong.
But after playing on, he then repeated the error when he blew for fulltime once more before the clock had ticked over to the 90 minutes.
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.
The match was also a tale of two penalties as Mali forward Ibrahima Kone converted his attempt after a handball, but Tunisia's Wahbi Khazri could not follow suit as his effort was saved by goalkeeper Ibrahima Mounkoro 13 minutes from time.
The result follows the trend of 1-0 win at the finals, with this the seventh in the 10 games played to date. The second match in Group F will be played later on Wednesday between Mauritania and Gambia.
Tunisia vs Mali Highlights
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 Kouyate’s shot struck the hand of Elyas Skhiri as the Tunisia midfielder turned his back on the ball.
Kone stepped up to easily convert the penalty and give the his side the lead.
Dylan Bronn forced a first save out of Mali goalkeeper Ibrahima Mounkoro with a 35-yard drive that the gloveman 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.
But 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.
(Reporting by Nick Said Editing by Christian Radnedge)