Tunisia one time winners of the Africa Cup of Nations taking on Moussa Djenepo’s Mali. The match ended in a farcical and comical way as the Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe ordered a restart of the match which had ended prematurely. Sikazwe’s handling of the match itself can hardly be called competent. He showed a red card for Mali’s El Bilal Toure for yellow card territory challenge on Bronn. It is scandalous that VAR didn’t point to the clear and obvious era here. It is fitting that with such officiating the goal comes in controversial fashion. The penalty for Tunisia wasn’t initially given by the ref, instead giving it for an infringement by a Tunisian player. What exactly the infringement and by whom it was committed your guess could well be as good as mine. VAR did its job here and pointed to the error thus the penalty was given, which former Sunderland man Khazri missed, rather saved by Mounkoro the Mali keeper. Nothing controversial though about the Mali penalty award.
I don’t want to preempt a likely investigation here but it will be interesting to see the betting patterns for this game. The game has a hallmark of a fixed game. So what do the rules say about the match ending before the 90 mins. Contrary to belief that is very much possible. According to the FIFA rules , a referee can end the match prematurely if there is a danger to his life, that of players, officials and fans. This is FIFA Law 7. He however has to notify both coaches of the decision to end it prematurely and should be ratified by the fourth official. This wasn’t done. I can only speculate, in the refs defense, that his watch could have stopped working at some point. It can happen. The Law 7 states however that you cannot compensate for a timekeeping error by increasing the length of the match. So Sikazwe clearly is in violation. Tunisia rightly refused to continue with the match. They will likely be sanctioned by CAF for bringing the game into disrepute I am sure of that. Mali did take to the pitch ready to play which is brave seeing that they were already in the lead. The post match interviews with the coaches had already started and the man of the match award had been handed to the Mali keeper which makes this match the most bizarre in a long time. This overshadowed yet another dull low scoring match at the AFCON.