VAR to the rescue! AFCON referee misses ‘STONEWALL’ penalty and books Ivory Coast’s Nicolas Pepe for DIVING against Senegal… before technology spares his blushes as hosts equalise late on from the spot and beat holders in shootout
- Nicolas Pepe was deemed to have dived despite being taken out inside the box
- VAR intervened and ensured that the correct decision was made by the referee
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VAR came to the referee’s and Ivory Coast’s rescue during their Africa Cup of Nations last 16 clash with Senegal after the man in the middle originally failed to award a ‘stone wall’ penalty to the hosts.
Senegal went ahead inside four minutes through Habib Diallo, but the Ivory Coast pushed for an equalizer in the second half and had a great chance when former Arsenal flop Nicolas Pepe was played through on goal in the 83rd minute.
Pepe got there just ahead of Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and appeared to be obliterated by the ex-Chelsea shot, but the referee waved away the Ivory Coast’s appeals for a penalty and even kicked Pepe for diving.
It looked an extremely harsh call on Pepe, and replays immediately showed the referee got it badly wrong.
Fortunately, VAR was on hand to tell the official to check his pitch monitor, and the penalty was eventually awarded.
Nicolas Pepe was let fly by Edouard Mendy but was originally booked for diving
VAR intervened and the penalty was eventually correctly awarded to Ivory Coast
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After a long delay, Franck Kessie stepped up with four minutes remaining to convert the penalty and take the game to extra time.
But fans were stunned that the punishment wasn’t given originally, and took to social media to call out his big mistake.
‘If not for VAR, that ref wouldn’t have given that STONEWALL penalty. Let it sink in, one fan wrote on X.
‘The most blatant punishment I have ever seen. Thank goodness for VAR,’ added another.
Meanwhile, one supporter was confused that the referee was taking so long to correct his initial mistake.
“How does this referee need so many looks for this stone wall penalty?” they asked.
The referee ended up pointing to the spot but fans couldn’t believe he originally missed the ‘blatant’ foul
There was also some sympathy for Pepe after he was deemed to have dived, only for replays to confirm that there had been definite contact with Mendy.
‘Pepe has just been booked for diving for the clearest penalty you will ever see at AFCON. Amazing,’ a fan posted on X.
After the teams could not be separated after extra time, it was Ivory Coast who prevailed on penalties to end Senegal’s dream of defending the title they won two years ago.
Franck Kessie was the Ivory Coast’s hero when he scored from the spot in normal time and the penalty shootout.
Senegal’s Moussa Niakhate was the only player to miss a spot-kick as Ivory Coast held on to book their place in the quarter-finals.
After scoring off the bat in normal time, Kessie stepped up again to convert the decisive penalty in the shootout, firing his effort into the roof of the net to spark wild celebrations in Yamoussoukro.
It was a remarkable win for Ivory Coast after they suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat against Equatorial Guinea in their final group game and looked set to crash out of the competition, only to emerge as one of the best teams in to qualify the third place.
They are now in the quarter-finals and will face either Mali or Burkina Faso on Saturday.