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SCANDAL FOOTBALL MATCH

The early days of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations have been fraught with incident, from positive coronavirus tests to Burkina Faso alleging "scandal" around CAF's coronavirus protocols, but none of it compared to the refereeing storm that engulfed the final moments of Mali's 1-0 victory over Tunisia in Limbe, Cameroon, on Wednesday.

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  • Mali beat Tunisia as referee ends game early (twice)

Referee Janny Sikazwe had made a series of questionable decisions through the course of the contest, with two questionable penalty decisions before a bewildering final five minutes -- or, to be more accurate, four minutes 42 seconds.

Sikazwe appeared to initially blow for full-time after 85 minutes and 11 seconds, then ignored a VAR recommendation to overturn a red card, and finally called full-time on the contest at 89 minutes 42 seconds. It's one thing to cut injury time a little short or misjudge how much stoppage time should be added, but to end the game before 90 minutes, without even referring to the fourth official for a sense of how much time ought to be added, is yet another headache for CAF to manage. (Considering there were two penalties, a drinks break, several substitutions by both teams and two decisions reviewed by pitch-side monitor, there was no doubting the need for added time.)

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Tunisia, trailing 1-0 after Ibrahima Kone's 48th-minute spot-kick -- awarded when Ellyes Skhiri's hand blocked a Boubakar Kiki Kouyate shot -- were apoplectic when the referee ended the game early. They turned their attention to the linesman near their technical area before pursuing Sikazwe, only for security officials to intervene and escort the official away. Such conduct is unacceptable, but their unhappiness was understandable.

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