Tunisia 0-1 Mali: Confusion after referee ends Afcon clash early
Tunisia vs Mali.
The referee ended the match before 90 minutes elapsed leading to fierce protest on the side of the 2004 Afcon champions

Mali picked up a 1-0 win against Tunisia in their Africa Cup of Nations Group F opening game in Limbe on Wednesday, but serious questions will be asked because the final whistle was blown in the 89th minute.

Ibrahima Kone's penalty separated the two sides while Wahbi Khaziri saw his spot-kick stopped by Bosso Mounkoro as the West Africans started their Afcon journey on a winning note.

Dylann Bronn conceded a corner as he blocked Kone's first-minute attempt on goal as Mali surged forward looking for an early goal. Adama Traore, however, could not find the back of the net as his effort went wide.

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Bilel Ifa - who was lucky not to get a caution - made a vital block to stop Traore, who was fast moving towards Tunisia's goal as Mali started asserting some dominance in the opening minutes.

Hamza Mathlouthi conceded a second corner when he attempted to clear Moussa Djenepo's shot on goal, but the West Africans could not make maximum use of the two subsequent corners they won in the eighth minute. 

Another corner in the 12th minute could not result in an opener as Boubacar Kouyate's header inside the box flew over the bar when Mali looked more confident and composed on the ball as they pinned Tunisia into their own half.

Amadou Haidara needed medical attention in the 21st minute when he collided with Tunisia's Mathlouthi, who was consequently yellow carded for the tough challenge on his Malian opponent.

Tunisia got an opportunity to test Mali's goalkeeper, Mounkoro, for the first time in the 27th minute when they won a free-kick and a corner within a minute, but Les Aigles cleared the ball with much ease.

Fairly unmarked Traore could not connect to a clever delivery into Tunisia's area by Djenepo in the 36th minute as another open chance for Mali went unconverted.

Mali - who had eight attempts on goal in the first half - won a penalty in the 48th minute when Ellyes Skhiri blocked Kouyate's shot with his hand. Kone took the conversion responsibilities and sent Ben Said the wrong way, superbly planting the ball into the net for the breakthrough.

Khazri spotted Mali's Mounkoro off his line and launched a long-range shot at goal, but it flew just wide as the TP Mazembe goalkeeper retreated to cover his empty net in the 50th minute.

Tunisia looked inspired to venture forward after conceding the opener as they attacked and won a free-kick in the 54th minute, but Khazri's delivery was tipped over the bar by Mounkoro for a corner. Skhiri almost got an equaliser when he rose to meet the corner delivery, but his header went out although he was unmarked inside the box.

Both sides made changes as the second half rolled on, as Noss Traore was taken out and Yves Bissouma came on for Mali, while Seif-Eddine Khaoui and Ben Slimane came on for Hannibal Mejbri and Aissa Laidouni for Tunisia, respectively.

As Mali's defence stood tight against Tunisia's attacks that increased as the time ticked on, Bronn attempted a low drive from his own half and Mounkoro did not take his chances as he dived to his left-hand side and parried the ball for a corner, but the North Africans failed to make much use of the set-piece in the 65th minute.

After a prolonged protest from Tunisia asking the referee to seek a VAR reference on whether Djenepo blocked Khazri's effort with his hand, the referee obliged and delivered the judgement in favour of the Carthage Eagles.

Khazri took the spot-kick, unsuccessfully, as he failed to equalise as Mounkoro dived to his right-hand side and stopped the penalty.

There was confusion in the 85th minute when the referee, Janny Sikazwe of Zambia, blew his whistle, indicating full-time, but the game continued after a short while.

Mali were reduced to 10 men in the 87th minute when El Bilal was sent off after his boot caught Ellyes Skhiri.

Another confusion - that led to the fierce protest from Tunisia, arose when the referee ended the game in the 89th minute without additional minutes.