By Charles Embola
Football writer kick442.com-Cameroon
Ranked 30th on the FIFA Classification table, tournament favourites, Mali clashed with the Cartage Eagles of Tunisia in Group F opener of the ongoing Totalenergies African cup of nations.
Both nations started in an observatory mode which lasted the most part of the first 45. Mali however looked the most impressive going forward as keeper Ben Said was called to action in the 35th minute from an out of the box strike by Massadio Haidara.
The game had very little or nothing to boast about in terms of spectacle throughout this segment of the game though, but upon resumption, the Malians well coached by Mohamed Magassouba went on the front foot and were rightfully awarded a penalty in the 48th minute of play when Tunisian Defender Joris Skiri handled the ball in his 18 yard. Forward Ibrahima Kone stepped up and sent Ben Said the wrong way for Mali to take the lead.
The game was marred by Drama and Gaffes throughout the second segment. Zambian Referee Janny Sikawe in the 65th minute controversially stopped the game for a water break and this didn’t go well for both teams. Upon resumption, the Tunisians brought in their “A GAME” and where awarded their own well deserved penalty after Haidara of Mali had been adjudged to have handled the ball inside the box. It was a night to forget in a hurry for the Tunisians as captain Whabi Kahzri fired straight towards Mounkoro (GK) who pushed it wide to ensure Mali kept a clean sheet in the game.
Then came the 90th minute of play, Referee Janny Sikazwe sounding his whistle without paying attention to the fourth assistant Helder Martins Rodrigues who indicated an additional 3 minutes before the game is called ended. Furious Tunisians refused to resume the game after the commissioner had consulted his team for both sides to consume the time left.
Worthy of note, the Zambian referee was suspended in 2018 for what CAF had described gross misconduct. We are yet to see what sanction awaits him if any.
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