Two late penalties awarded after intervention by the Video Assistant Referee saw debutants Gambia hold Mali to a 1-1 draw at the Africa Cup of Nations in Limbe on Sunday as the teams stayed joint top of the Group F standings.
Both have four points from two matches, with the group’s other sides – Mauritania and Tunisia – meeting later in Limbe in search of their first points.
Gambia equalised in the last minute through Musa Barrow after a handball decision against Mali, who had led for 10 minutes after Ibrahima Kone converted a spot-kick.
Both penalties were awarded after the VAR advised Moroccan referee Samir Guezzaz to view the incidents on the pitch-side screen.
Mali’s was belatedly given after Adama Nos Traore had been tugged down in the area. Mali had laid siege to Gambia’s goal for much of the game and deserved to finally make the breakthrough.
But Gambia, competing at their first finals and having beaten Mauritania in their opening game, won a penalty of their own in the last minute when Brighton’s Yves Bissouma handled an attempted cross by Ebrima Colley.
Gambia goalkeeper Modou Jobe made several point-blank stops in the second half to keep his goal intact.
But it was Gambia who went closest to scoring before the two spot-kicks, when after 20 minutes Barrow thumped an ambitious free-kick, taken from midway between the halfway line and the edge of the penalty area, against the crossbar.
He had another set-piece opportunity, from much closer in, seven minutes before halftime and again hit the woodwork.
What’s next for Gambia and Mali?
Gambia play Tunisia in their final group match, live on Sky Sports Football from 7pm on Thursday, while Mali take on Mauritania at the same time, live on Sky Sports Premier League.
The Africa Cup of Nations tournament will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in January and February.
The tournament, originally scheduled to be played in June and July 2021, will be played in Cameroon between January 9 and February 6, 2022, with Sky Sports showing all 52 games live.