Mali-Tunisia AFCON game ends in confusion, as referee blows whistle twice too soon

The Africa Cup of Nations descended into chaos on Tuesday after farcical scenes involving the referee in Tunisia’s opening group stage clash with Mali.

Official Janny Sikazwe blew the final whistle after just 85 minutes before restarting play, but then blew again with just 89 minutes and 43 seconds of the Group F clash gone.

His mistake drew a furious reaction from Tunisia’s bench, with boss Mondher Kebaier furiously grabbing the arm of the Zambian referee and pointing to his watch in the immediate aftermath of the full-time whistle.

The Tunisia head coach was then joined by his backroom staff in protesting, with Kebaier confronting one of the linesmen to complain about the game being brought to a premature end.

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Security staff had to surround Sikazwe, who refereed at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and his two officials at the Limbe Stadium in Cameroon in order to keep angry Tunisia staff away from them.

Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba’s post-match press conference was later interrupted, with Confederation of African Football officials barging in and saying the match will be re-started to play out the final three minutes.

Fans were then seen filing back into the stands as the referees discussed the situation on the touchlines.

However in the final dramatic twist, Tunisia appeared to refuse to come out and play the final three minutes, although Sikazwe and Mali did wait for them.

The Zambian official then blew the whistle calling off the match, meaning full time has now officially been called.

There have since been suggestions the error possibly came when Sikazwe stopped the match for a five-minute water break, but could have failed to stop his watch.

That mistake saw his watch run to 90 minutes while the actual time had just reached the 85th minute, leading to possible subsequent confusion when playing on for four more minutes only, believing that that was added time.

Tunisia however were seemingly making a valid point with their initial protests, with two VAR checks taking place during the Group F clash.

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