A very controversial Wednesday match handed Mali a winning opener against Morocco, with the centre referee drawing condemnation from the northern African team.
The astonishing scenes overshadowed what should have been a proud day for Mali, who won the Group F game thanks to Ibrahima Kone’s penalty just after half-time.
Meanwhile, the at the centre of the match caused chaos by twice blowing early for the end of a game.
Referee Janny Sikazwe of Zambia first blew for full time after only 85 minutes of the Group F opener between Tunisia and Mali in Limbe. Mali was leading 1-0. Sikazwe seemed to realize his mistake amid strong protests by the Tunisia players and restarted the game soon after.
Zambian official Janny Sikazwe signalled the end of the match and a 1-0 win for 10-man Mali in the coastal town of Limbe with the clock showing 89 minutes and 47 seconds.
The Tunisians furiously protested that there were several minutes of stoppage time still to play.
With confusion reigning, Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba was giving his post-match victory press conference when an official entered the room under the stand to indicate that the game would restart and that three minutes still remained.
Mali returned to the field but the Tunisians did not re-emerge, and so the referee brought the game to a definitive conclusion when the Malians kicked off again.
“It is a difficult situation to deal with. The referee also blew with five minutes left in the first half and then he blew after 89 minutes, denying us practically seven or eight minutes of added time,” claimed Kebaier, whose team had an extra man at the end after Mali’s El Bilal Toure was sent off.
There was no official word from the Confederation of African Football on any decisions made over the game, but it appeared the 1-0 win for Mali would stand.
In another match, the Gambia played the first match of their history in the final phase of the Africa Cup of Nations and they won against Mauritania (1-0), in Limbe! A well-deserved success for the Gambians who have had a very difficult preparation for the CAN 2021.
Africa Cup of Nations officials suffered another embarrassing moment in the same match as the wrong anthem was played three times for Mauritania ahead of their opening game against the Gambia in Limbe.
The incident came two hours after the first match in Group F between Mali and Tunisia was brought to an end before the clock hit 90 minutes.
Mauritania players looked on in bemusement, some shaking their heads, as two unsuccessful attempts were made to play the country’s national anthem before kick-off.
Tom Saintfiet’s men needed only 10 minutes to score the first goal of their history in the competition.