Hannibal substituted at half-time as Tunisia lose AFCON opener 1-0

Manchester United starlet Hannibal is currently away at the Africa Cup of Nations with Tunisia.

They got their campaign underway with a clash against Mali this afternoon and Hannibal was included in the starting lineup as part of a the front three.

Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images

Frustrating start to the tournament

The first half was a real non-event, with no shots on target for either side. That continued the theme of a low-scoring start to the tournament across the board.

Tunisia were clearly looking to change something after the break and it was Hannibal who paid the price. He was hooked at half-time and replaced by Saîf-Eddine Khaoui.

In the first half, Hannibal had just 17 touches, as per WhoScored.

Within that first 45 minutes, he did create two chances with key passes. No Tunisian player created more, even among those who were on for the full game.

Those key passes were two of just nine passes he was able to make in the whole half, an average of one every five minutes.

It was a frustrating start to the tournament for Hannibal. The problem was partially that he did not play at his best but also that Tunisia could also not get him into the game enough.

This is a big tournament for him, and perhaps as an inexperienced player, he got a little overawed and was not helped out by the fact the game was flat and the team performance overall was not great.

It is all about how he recovers now and he needs his manager Mondher Kebaier to stick with him for the next match, against Mauritania on Sunday afternoon.

Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images

Refereeing controversy

Mali ended up winning the game 1-0, thanks to Ibrahima Kone’s penalty. The decision to give handball against Ellyes Skhiri was dubious, with the Koln midfielder not looking at the ball.

Tunisia had a chance to equaliser later in the second half, but Wahbi Khazri – formerly of Sunderland – missed from the penalty spot after another borderline spot-kick decision.

Then, referee Janny Sikazwe appeared to blow his full-time whistle with five minutes remaining.

That was despite the two aforementioned VAR checks, substitutions and a drinks break, which would have added a fair amount of stoppage time.

In the end, Sikazwe did end the game with the clock showing 89:44, sparking angry scenes, with Tunisia’s coaches remonstrating with the referee on the pitch at the full-time whistle.

Tunisia were handed the opportunity to finish the game but did not come out to play, even though their opponents did.

It added up to an even more frustrating afternoon for Hannibal and Tunisia, and they will look to move on quickly.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.