The Africa Cup of Nations exploded into life on Wednesday, but it was the referee that was at the centre of everyone’s attention following Mali’s 1-0 victory over Tunisia.
Ibrahima Kone’s penalty early in the second half was enough to hand Mali (14/1 to win AFCON) the three points in their Group F opener in a contest that also saw the victors have El Bilal Toure sent off, while Tunisia’s Wahbi Khazri had a penalty saved by Ibrahim Mounkoro.
It was certainly a game that kept referee Janny Sikazwe busy, with the Zambian official seemingly losing track of his timings, first blowing for full time on 85 minutes, before reversing that decision only to again signal the end of the match when the clock showed 89 minutes and 47 seconds.
Tunisia (33/1 to win AFCON) head coach Mondher Kebaier and his technical staff confronted the referee after the contest, and following a delay of over 20 minutes, tournament organisers ordered the game to be resumed, however, the North Africans refused to return to the field, handing the victory (for a second time) to Mali.
Wednesday’s other AFCON matches were not quite as controversial, as Gambia beat Mauritania 1-0 in the other Group F fixture thanks to an early Ablie Jallow strike, while in Group E a Max Gradel goal was enough to hand Ivory Coast a 1-0 success over Equatorial Guinea.
Group A will take centre stage on Thursday, with hosts Cameroon taking on Ethiopia in the 16:00 kick-off (Cameroon 2/7, Draw 4/1, Ethiopia 14/1 – Match Result).
The Indomitable Lions will be looking to make it two wins from two following their 2-1 victory over Burkina Faso in the tournament opener on Sunday – Vincent Aboubakar scored both goals in that one.
The second match of the day will be a 19:00 start for Cape Verde’s clash with Burkina Faso (Cape Verde 13/5, Draw 17/10, Burkina Faso 6/4 – Match Result).
Cape Verde beat Ethiopia 1-0 in their tournament opener and another victory in Yaounde could see them guarantee their place in the knockout stages of the competition for the first time since 2013.