x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

African Cup of Nations: Refereeing errors threaten to overshadow Burkina Faso's dramatic win over Ghana

Burkina Faso book their place in the African Cup of Nations final for the first time, despite a host of controversial refereeing decisions during their penalty shootout win over Ghana.

Burkina Faso's Jonathan Pitroipa reacts after receiving a second yellow card against Ghana.
Burkina Faso's Jonathan Pitroipa reacts after receiving a second yellow card against Ghana.

Burkina Faso 1 Ghana 1
(AET.  90 mins: 1-1.  Burkina Faso win 3-2 on penalties)

Burkina Faso beat Ghana to reach the Cup of Nations final. It would be a startling sentence even without context, but after what had happened in yesterday's semi-final it was truly shocking.

This has been a tournament of strange refereeing and four huge calls from the Tunisian referee Slim Jdidi went in favour of Ghana. So outraged was the largely neutral crowd that by the end they were openly supporting Burkina, booing Ghana's players as they went up to take their penalties.

In the end, it was a night of triumph over adversity but it was also a night of scandal.

"I'm very happy with this victory and very happy that we made it to final," said Burkina's Belgian coach Paul Put.

"I think the best player of the day was the referee. He was at a very great level. I was feeling ashamed it was very clear that Burkina Faso would not be allowed to reach the final.

"I told the players at half-time that we didn't need the referee to win and pass to the final."

First there was the penalty Burkina believed they should have had after five minutes when John Boye barged into Jonathan Pitroipa

Then there was the penalty Ghana were awarded eight minutes later.

Christian Atsu jumped for a high ball and then tumbled after the slightest contact from Saidou Panadetiguiri. Nobody appealed and there was general bewilderment as Jdidi pointed to the spot.

Burkina Faso were outraged but Mubarak Wakaso retained his composure to thump home his third penalty of the tournament and his fourth goal in total.

Then, on the stroke of half-time in extra-time, there was the goal Burkina had disallowed. Dauda and Boye hesitated as Charles Kabore's long pass landed between them, and Prejuce Nakoulma muscled by the defender to jab the ball over the keeper.

Jdidi saw a foul and penalised the Burkinabe. And then, perhaps most scandalously of all, Jonathan Pitroipa, having already been booked, collected a second yellow card after being whacked on the knees in the box by Boye. Jdidi presumably saw it as simulation; "ridiculous" said Pot.

Yet Burkina kept fighting. In what was by some way the best game of the tournament, they created a number of chances and finally equalised through Aristide Bance, who had half a season at Al Ahli under David O'Leary.

As the Ghana forward Asamoah Gyan admitted, they were the better side. Their win may in the end have come because Isaac Vorsah and Emmanuel Clottey dragged penalties wide of the post and because their goalkeeper Daouda Diakite saved from Emmanuel Badu but it was fully deserved.

Bance led the line superbly - and on another day could easily have had a hat-trick, while Pitroipa was an energetic, imaginative presence on the wing and Kabore gave another performance of calm assurance in midfield.

"The ref is human and all humans can make mistakes," said Kabore.

"He made too many tonight, we can forgive now and then and won't dwell on that. If I had lost it or lost my temper I think all my teammates would have followed me. It was my responsibility to keep calm.

"The refereeing should not be a major issue; what is important now is that we are playing in the final and Pitroipa must play in the final. That video must be reviewed and the decision overturned."

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