By Beng Emmanuel
Mali narrowly edged Tunisia 1-0 in a nerve-racking Africa cup of Nations group F Opener at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium.
The game which started with fireworks from the Eagles finished controversially after the referee Janny Sikwaze rescinded his decision to close the game on 85th minute but finally went on to abruptly stop the fixture before the actual 90 minutes of the game were played.
He had erroneously blown the final whistle five minutes to full time and again at the 89th minute which triggered a wave of protest from Tunisian bench who felt cheated. The Carthage Eagles who trailed after conceding shortly after resuming the second half were hoping to rescue a point from Mali who were forced to play with 10 men after El Bilal Toure was sent off barely 5 minutes after coming in as a substitute.
There were signs the game would restart with the fourth assistant referee to take charge but it didn’t go ahead after players of Tunisia national team failed to show up although those of Mali were back on the pitch.
Despite the chaos, Mali backed home their first three points of the tournament. Ibrahima Kone scored a second half penalty and his goalkeeper Ibrahim Mounkoro saved another to help beat Tunisia.
The Eagles produced a decent second half display to begin their campaign with a narrow win.Tunisia were desperate to rescue a point and slowly came out of their traps and struggled to cause Mali problems.
They mustered some efforts which called Ibrahim Mounkoro into action. Wahbi Khazri had two great chances to level scores including a penalty that was saved, Dylan Bronn had his strike pushed to the corner by Mounkoro while Ellyes Skhiri’s header went inches for an equaliser.
Mali now lead group F of the Nations Cup. Their next game comes up on January 16 against Gambia. Tunisia on their part face Mauritania.
Tunisia 0-1 Mali
[Ibrahima Kone 48’ (Pen)]