The Africa Cup of Nations match between Mali and Tunisia on Wednesday ended in confusion amid bizarre scenes as the Tunisian team complained that the referee had blown the final whistle too soon.
Zambian official Janny Sikazwe signalled the end of the match and a 1-0 win for 10-man Mali in the coastal town of Limbe with the clock showing 89 minutes and 47 seconds.
Sikazwe blew for the end of the Group F game in Limbe to signal that Mali had beaten the 2004 continental champions 1-0 thanks to Ibrahima Kone’s second-half penalty.
Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba was giving his post-match victory press conference when an official entered the room under the stand to indicate that the game would restart.
A Confederation of African Football official however said the match needed to be played to a conclusion, with three minutes remaining, but the Tunisian team did not re-emerge and the referee brought the game to a definitive end when Mali kicked off again.
The end of the match was marred by the controversial decision of the match referee to put the game off seconds before the end of regulation time. The Malians returned to the pitch to play the remaining time, but the Tunisians preferred not to return to immediately look into the next match.
Mali’s victory sends them to the top of the group before their second match against The Gambia on 16 January. The Scorpions will play Mauritania in the second match of Group F.