The Africa Cup of Nations descended into carnage on Wednesday amid red cards and early stoppages
Football fans have taken to social media to react to the wild finish seen at the end of an Africa Cup of Nations clash between Tunisia and Mali.
Mali were winning 1-0 thanks to an Ibrahima Kone penalty, with Tunisia failing to take a chance to level from the spot when Saint-Etienne's Wahbi Khazri fluffed his lines in the 77th minute.
Just eight minutes later, however, referee Janny Sikazwe bizarrely blew for full-time early before swiftly realizing his error.
In the 87th minute, Reims' El Bilal Toure was then sent off. And even though VAR showed Sikazwe that his decision was wrong, he stood his ground and went against the evidence.
Once more, on 89 minutes and 40 seconds, he then ended play prematurely – much to the dismay of Tunisia boss Mondher Kebaier, who stormed the pitch with his technical staff to confront the Zambian while pointing to his wrist.
The ending of Tunisia vs. Mali was WILD ???? pic.twitter.com/NJKIZPQ4Gy— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 12, 2022
As a post-match press conference was already underway, AFCON organizers ordered the match to be resumed so that a conclusion could finally be reached.
But because Tunisia didn't return to the pitch at the Limbe Stadium some 20 minutes later, Mali were declared the Group F tie's winners.
???? The referee has blown the whistle after 89 minutes in Tunisia vs Mali #AFCON— Football Daily (@footballdaily) January 12, 2022
???? Tunisian coach Mondher Kebaier is furious with the decision to finish the game with no additional time pic.twitter.com/RISJCnclAK
Have you EVER seen anything like it! ????— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) January 12, 2022
▪ Referee ends match early...
▪ Press conferences interrupted as AFCON officials say match must resume!
▪ Referee changed for final three minutes!
▪ Tunisia fail to return to the pitch!
Unbelievable, Jeff. ????pic.twitter.com/MfSfT0YJH1
Online, fans rushed to remark on the goings on led by one of the "great terrible refereeing performances".
"Match-fixing or incompetency?" someone asked, which sparked a debate.
"I can't understand how this would be considered match fixing?" came one comment.
"How does blowing early fix a game? It's not like anyone would score again as the games so far have been awful. I think the ref just wanted to become famous by blowing up early."
Match-fixing or incompetency?— Mouth of the Tyne (@ToonMouthTyne) January 12, 2022
I can't understand how this would be considered match fixing? How does blowing early fix a game? It's not like anyone would score again as the games so far have been awful.. I think the ref just wanted to become famous by blowing up early.— Adam Hodge (@FIWCHAMP9) January 12, 2022
That’s his last game he has officiated ????— M.akaVelï ???????????????????????? (@weslordx) January 12, 2022
Worst officiating I have seen in football so far— CHIDI???? (@emmylambo7) January 12, 2022
Another party rushed to sarcastically say: "Thank the lord for our fantastic referees in England," as the officiating was dubbed "Championship level" in reference to the UK's second tier.
Amid arguments on the lack of attention the tournament receives, which has been viewed as a mark of disrespect, it was said that the goings-on were hardly the best advert for the continental spectacle.
Later, Kebaier detailed the referee's actions. "He blew for full time and asked us to go to the dressing room, so the players were in their ice baths and then he asked us to come back out.
"In 30 years in this business, I have never seen anything like it," Kebaier claimed.
Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba is back for his second press conference of the night— Maher Mezahi (@MezahiMaher) January 12, 2022
He's been sweating like crazy and looks stressed pic.twitter.com/vifQzbanmd
"It is a difficult situation to deal with," the coach went on.
"The referee also blew with five minutes left in the first half and then he blew after 89 minutes, denying us practically seven or eight minutes of added time."
"His decision is inexplicable. I can't understand how he made his decision and we will see what happens now," Kebaier concluded.