Mali players celebrate Ibrahima Kone's winning goal

Mali players celebrate Ibrahima Kone's winning goal

Wahbi Khazri had a second-half penalty saved as Tunisia fell to a contentious 1-0 loss against Mali in their Africa Cup of Nations opener in which referee Janny Sikazwe was at the centre of controversy.

Sikazwe awarded both sides a penalty in the second half and dismissed Mali forward El Bilal Toure before blowing for full-time early to spark angry scenes at Stade Limbe.

After a low-key first half that saw neither side go particularly close, Ibrahima Kone converted past debutant keeper Bechir Ben Said from 12 yards after Ellyes Skhiri blocked Boubakar Kouyate’s shot with his hand.

Tunisia, the fourth-highest ranked African side, toiled without truly being able to test Ibrahim Mounkoro in the Group F clash between the sides expected to advance in the top two spots ahead of Gambia and Mauritania.

But the 2004 tournament winners were given a lifeline 16 minutes from time as Sikazwe again pointed to the spot when Khazri’s cross hit Moussa Djenepo on the hand, only for the Saint-Etienne striker’s penalty to be saved by Mounkoro.

After the referee initially blew for full-time in the 85th minute, play resumed and Mali substitute Toure was shown a straight red card for catching Dylan Bronn, before Sikazwe again brought play to a halt 10 seconds early despite a raft of substitutions and a cooling break.