Tunisia coach Kebaier slams 'inexplicable' decision to bring early end to Mali AFCON clash

By Sports Desk January 12, 2022

Tunisia head coach Mondher Kebaier hit out at referee Janny Sikazwe's "inexplicable" decision to bring an early end to Wednesday's Africa Cup of Nations clash with Mali.

Mali were leading the Group F match 1-0 through a Ibrahima Kone penalty when the Zimbabwean official blew for full-time in the 85th minute.

Kebaier realised his error and play resumed for another four minutes, during which time Mali forward El Bilal Toure was dismissed, before blowing again with 13 seconds to go.

That was despite a number of stoppages in the second half, including a couple of lengthy VAR checks for Kone's penalty and one that Wahbi Khazri missed for Tunisia.

Tunisia officials stormed onto the field to protest, arguing that not only should the remaining seconds have been played, but time should also have been added on at the end.

In incredible scenes, Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba was speaking at his post-match news conference when word emerged that the game would restart.

Around 40 minutes after the game was supposed to have concluded, Mali's players made their way back on the field, but Tunisia's players did not re-emerge from the tunnel.

Tunisia boss Kebaier later explained that his players were not in a position to play the remaining minutes and suggested an appeal will be lodged.

"It's a difficult situation to deal with," he told reporters. "The referee also blew with five minutes left in the first half.

"Then he blew after 89 minutes in the second, denying us practically seven or eight minutes of added time.

"His decision is inexplicable. I can't understand how he made his decision and we will see what happens now."

Asked about events after the game, Kebaier added: "He blew for full-time and asked us to go to the dressing room. The players were in their ice baths when asked to come out.

"In 30 years in this business I have never seen anything like it."

The controversial end to the match meant kick-off in the later game between Mauritania and Gambia at the same ground was pushed back by 45 minutes.

Should the result stand, Mali will be in a strong position to advance into the knockout stages of the competition for the second tournament running.

Giving his side's view on the drama, Mali boss Magassouba said: "These are administrative questions. We were told to go back on the pitch because the game was not finished.

"Unfortunately the opposition team did not want to come back out and the final whistle was blown."

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