A tale of two penalties as Mali upset lethargic Tunisians but AFCON errors persist

By Innocent Benjamin

What was supposed to be a commendable win by Mali has been overshadowed by several errors by AFCON and referee Sikazwe

The Eagles of Mali caused a minor AFCON upset after scrapping a 1-0 win over Africa's fourth highest ranked country in Limbe Cameroon. 

Tunisia came into the match as one of the competition favorites with a world ranking position of 30, 23 places above opponents Mali. 

But it was the Malians who drew first blood after Ibrahim Kone netted from the spot just over 2 minutes after the break. 

The goal seemed to jolt the Eagles of Carthage into life, having endured a subdued first half with only 2 attempts compared to Mali's 7.

After commanding proceedings in the second half, the Malian rearguard eventually yielded to the mounting pressure when they conceded a penalty from a Moussa Djenepo infringement. 

Captain Whabi Khazri stepped up to the responsibility but was denied by an inspired brahim Mounkoro who dived correctly to his right to deny Saint-Etienne striker.

The game contained at least one more twist before full-time as Mali's El Bilal Torure was controversially sent off for a tackle on Dylan Bronn. 

The challenge on replays appeared innocuous, but despite being afforded the insight of a second viewing, 42-year-old Zambian referee, Janny Sikazwe, refused to rescind his red card decision. 

Error-strewn AFCON fail to light up amidst significant coverage

For the first time in a long while, Africa's flagship continental championship, the Africa Cup of Nations, is enjoying more than usual coverage from international media. 

This is mainly due to claims of disrespect to the tournament by European clubs and pundits alike, with Klopp once calling it a "little" tournament. 

With so much buzz around the competition, it's sad to see that it has so far failed to live up to the hype. 

In its first four game days, the tournament can only boast of one game where there has been more than one goal scored.

This is despite witnessing 10 games involving big guns Morocco, Algeria, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal and more recently Tunisia. 

Statistically the competition is averaging a goal per game, a stat that rubbishes the sheer attacking talents on show.

The competition hasn't also been free-flowing off the pitch, with broadcasters not in sync with stadium coverage. 

On many occasions, broadcasters have been unable to display the added time on screen for the convenience of the viewers. 

This is because the fourth official's board as well as stadium announcement system have failed in every game to declare the amount of extra time allotted. 

In fact, these broadcasters including Sky Sports went as far as choosing not to display the time log in the second half of the opener involving Cameroon due to this lapse in communication. 

The European broadcaster had to wait until late into the 50th minute before resuming the time stamp. 

Referee howlers ruin promising match

Referee Sikazwe blows for full time with five minutes plus extra time left to play

In the competition's opener involving Cameroon and Burkina Faso, the praises were effusive for Mustapha Ghorbal after he expertly controlled the flow of the game. 

While Burkina Faso bizarrely conceded two penalties in a crazy five-minute spell, both calls were accurate and were even deserving of more stringent punishments. 

But the standards appear to have since dropped following Sikazwe's howlers in Wednesday's clash. 

Since the African Championship has not adopted Europe's no-nonsense approach to fouls, the penalty calls cannot be microscopically examined. 

Nonetheless, the decision of the referee to send off Bilal Toure despite there being minimal, if any, contact is an appalling call in any climate. 

It becomes even more shocking considering the fact that VAR, which was employed in this competition to stem such occurrences out, wasn't well utilized by the referee. 

Sikazwe's horrendous day didn't end there though as the referee called for full time in the 85th minute to the bemusement of viewers. 

Referee Sikazwe blows for full time with time still left to play before 90'

He then repeated his action in the 89th minute with 10 seconds still left to play in the competition. 

While criticisms have been rife on twitter, many Africans have tried defending the integrity and quality of the competition, but it remains clear that the AFCON is still in dire need of a complete overhaul.