AFCON: The referee ends the game too early, the coach is angry

An African Cup of Nations referee blew two early penalties at the end of the game on Wednesday, angering the coach of the losing team and raising the absurd possibility that the game may have to restart with the minutes remaining, creating confusion.

Zambia’s referee Janny Sikazwe blew for the first time just 85 minutes after the Group F opener between Tunisia and Mali in Limbe. Mali lead 1-0. Sikazwe seemed to realize his mistake and quickly restarted the game.

He had time to send off Mali substitute Erbilal Toure in the 87th minute for a frivolous challenge. But almost a minute before the end of 90 minutes, Sikazwe was full again, according to the stadium clock and TV broadcasts. Mali appeared to have won the game 1-0.

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The early whistle angered Tunisian head coach Mondje Koble and the rest of the coaching staff. Kerber rushed onto the pitch to confront the referee, angrily pointing at his watch, who had to be escorted off the pitch by security officials, away from the angry Tunisians.

It was then suggested that the game would resume, and about 30 minutes later officials gathered on Limbe’s court and had a discussion.

Mali players also returned to the pitch, seemingly complaining about the situation. Some reached out and shook their heads. They started to warm up while the Tunisian players were still in the dressing room.

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But the Mali player then started clapping and celebrating for the fans before walking away a second time.

There was no official word from CAF on any decision made on the match, but it looks like Mali’s 1-0 victory will stand.

Ibrahima Koné scored for Mali from the penalty spot three minutes into the second half.

Tunisia was awarded a late penalty for handball after a video review by referee Sikazwe. Tunisian captain Wahbi Hazri won and then took the penalty, but his powerful shot was saved by Ibrahim Moncoro.

Mali held on with 10 men after Toure’s red card, although they should have held on for not long thanks to Sikazwe’s early whistle.

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