DURBAN — Burkina Faso national football team coach Paul Put was left a bitter man after seeing a string of questionable refereeing decisions going against his side on Wednesday night.
After the scores were locked 1-1 at the end of extra time, Burkina Faso finally triumphed 3-2 in a penalty shoot-out to reach their first ever Africa Cup of Nations final.
But Put had to endure more emotion than he might have after seeing referee Slim Jedidi from Tunisia making a string of several controversial calls against the Stallions.
Jedidi allocated a soft penalty to Ghana, turned down a decent penalty claim, disallowed what seemed a legitimate goal, and then sent off star player Jonathan Pitroipa, handing him a 117th minute second yellow card for alleged simulation inside the box.
“I think the best player of the day was the referee,” said Put after the game.
“He was at a very great level. I was feeling ashamed as it was very clear that Burkina Faso would not be allowed to reach the final.
“The second yellow card of Pitroipa was ridiculous. I told the players at half-time that we didn’t need the referee to win,” he added.
Rank outsiders Burkina Faso will face Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations final after the 3-2 penalty shootout win over Ghana. Ghana’s Udinese midfielder Emmanuel Agyeman Badu had his effort saved by Daouda Diakite after earlier misses by teammates Isaac Vorsah and Emmanuel Clottey.Bakary Kone, Henri Traore and Aristide Bance converted their chances to continue the fairy-tale run of a team that had turned up in South Africa with the modest ambition of ending a 17-match winless Nations Cup run. Now they find themselves meeting Nigeria, 4-1 winners over Mali earlier, for a shot at becoming kings of Africa.
But they will have to do so without key player Jonathan Pitroipa, who misses the final after picking up two yellow cards.
The spot-kick climax was called for after the two teams were inseparable at 1-1 in a thrilling semi-final, with Bance’s second-half goal cancelling out Mubarak Wakaso’s early penalty. The Burkinabe were deserved winners after almost coming unstuck by a series of strange decisions against them by Jedidi. Chief among them was a legitimate penalty claim turned down, a goal disallowed, and Pitroipa’s sending off.
Jedidi wrongly waved away claims for an early spot-kick when John Boye barged into Jonathan Pitroipa, knocking his Rennes teammate unceremoniously to the much maligned Mbombela Stadium turf.
But on 13 minutes the referee had no hesitation in giving Ghana a penalty after an innocuous tangle involving Mady Panandetiguiri and Christian Atsu.
Wakaso stepped up to convert past Daouda Diakite, for his fourth goal of the competition. The penalty dramas sandwiched an unscripted substitution for Ghana, with Solomon Asante coming on for John Paintsil, stretchered off with a right thigh injury. Burkina were giving as good as they got in attack, but would have to find a way to trouble Ghana keeper Fatawu Dauda in the second half if they were to make it to Soweto on Sunday.
On 52 minutes Dauda produced a superb save off the Augsburg attacker’s header when he grabbed the ball from underneath the crossbar, Jdidi on this occasion getting it absolutely right, much to the Burkinabe fans’ displeasure.