Tunisia head coach Mondher Kebaier has explained why his players did not want to resume their Africa Cup of Nations Group F encounter in Limbe on Wednesday after the game ended prematurely.
Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe twice ended the tie before the regular minutes elapsed. In the first instance, the official blew the whistle in the 85th minute before the game resumed after a small pause and then ended it in the 89th minute without even playing an additional minute.
Tunisia, who were trailing 1-0 courtesy of a goal scored by Ibrahima Kone in the early minutes of the second half through a penalty, protested, but Sikazwe did not change his mind.
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"The referee blew the whistle at the 85th-minute mark and at the 89th-minute mark, it's lunar, " Kebaier said in his post-match reaction, as reported by CafOnline.
"He deprived us of concentration. We did not want to resume because the players had already taken their baths, deconcentrated and demoralized in the face of this gruesome situation."
While the Carthage Eagles gave reasons as to why they would not agree to resume the game, Mali's Mohamed Magassouba praised his players' approach to the game against the former Afcon champions.
"We wanted to resume playing the remaining minutes, but Tunisia did not want to resume, the referee then whistled the end of the game," said the coach.
"We demystified the match, we managed with rationality the occupation of the field, the transmissions. Of course, the ambition is to get the Cup, we say it with humility, wishful thinking."
While the controversial end of the Group F opener continues to generate debate as questions are asked, Mali's goalkeeper Bosso Mounkoro - who denied Wahbi Khazri from the spot - echoed his teammates' solidarity.
"The strength of our team has been solidarity. We joined hands for this collective victory. It is very important to start well. Stopping that penalty gives the team a boost," the TP Mazembe goalkeeper said.
Mali - who were reduced to 10 men towards the end of the second half when El Bilal Toure was red-carded for a heavy challenge on Ellyes Skhiri - will play The Gambia on January 16 before winding up the group games against Mauritania four days later.