By Anashe Murombedzi
The excitement of the knockout stage at the Africa Cup of Nations tournament currently underway in Cameroon has somewhat been diluted by a bloodbath of red cards with a record seven players being sent off in the round of 16.
The AFCON round of 16 commenced with a record seven red cards being issued in a knockout stage during which at least one player was dismissed in all except one of the five matches played so far.
Only the match between Malawi and Morocco ended on a clean slate with regards to red cards as the Flames went down 2-1 to the Atlas Lions.
The opening round of 16 encounter between Gabon and Burkina Faso set the tone for red cards, with Panthers’ centre-back Sidney Obissa picking up a second caution in the 67th minute.
The red card saw Gabon playing the rest of the match, including extra time, one man down.
The second red card was during Tunisia’s 1-0 victory over Nigeria where Everton midfielder Alex Iwobi was sent off after a video assistant referee review.
Comoros went home slapped with another red card after Nadjim Abdou was booked in the seventh minute although they gave Cameroon a tough time in their 2-1 loss.
As if that was not enough, the Gambia versus Guinea clash saw both teams ending the match with ten men after Gambian’s Yusupha Njie was sent off three minutes before full time, while Guinea defender Ibrahim Conte got his marching orders in added time.
Senegal edged a nine-man Cape Verde 2-0 after they were hit by two red cards.
The first red card was a big blow for Cape Verde when midfielder Patrick Andrade was dismissed 21 minutes into the game after a video assistant referee review.
The odds seemed to be against Cape Verde after their goalkeeper Josimar Vozinha clashed with Sadio Mane and was sent off after a lengthy VAR review.