Essaid Belkalem was on the receiving end of a very harsh penalty decision as Burkina Faso snatched a late and controversial 3-2 victory over Algeria in the first leg of their World Cup play-off in Ouagadougou.
The Watford defender’s side looked to have taken the marginal upper hand on away goals ahead of next month’s second leg in Blida after coming from behind twice to make it 2-2 in yesterday’s game.
However, Burkina Faso were given the opportunity to win the match late on after Belkalem was penalised for handball, even though his arms were behind his back, he was looking away from the ball and he appeared to be just outside the penalty area when a shot was fired at him from five yards.
Following vociferous protests from the Algerian players, Aristide Bance converted the spot-kick to give his country a slender advantage in the race to reach the Brazil finals.
Belkalem is unlikely to forget the match in a hurry as he had conceded another penalty towards the end of the opening period. This also appeared to be a dubious decision because although the central defender’s challenge on Jonathan Pitropia was rash, he looked to have made contact with the ball before his opponent.
Bance had been unable to capitalise on this opportunity though, as his first spot-kick was saved but Pitropia did head home unmarked in first-half injury-time to give his side the advantage at the break.
Algeria were soon back on terms in the second half when Sofiane Feghouli scored, only for them to fall behind for a second time when Djakaridja Kone fired Burkina Faso back in front.
But the lead was to prove shortlived as Carl Medjani equalised three minutes later and that looked to be enough for Algeria to earn a draw until the officials’ late intervention.