Johannesburg (AFP) – Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau won and Ethiopia were trailing when a match was abandoned as all three teams secured places Tuesday at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, raising the number of qualifiers to 22.

Ethiopia were losing 3-1 to already-qualified Ivory Coast in Abidjan on 80 minutes when the Ghanaian referee collapsed and the visiting team refused to continue because the fourth official was an Ivorian.

The Ivorian was a pre-match replacement after the original referee from Ghana withdrew, leading to his compatriot being promoted from fourth official to match referee.

Referee Charles Bulu was carried off and received treatment at the national stadium before being taken to hospital. His condition was not immediately known.

Madagascar, who needed maximum points to overtake Ethiopia in Group K, were surprisingly held 0-0 by bottom team Niger in Toamasina and finished third.

The in-form Ivorians quickly built a two-goal advantage as Willy Boly scored and Franck Kessie converted a penalty.

Getaneh Kebede halved the deficit on 74 minutes only for Jean Kouassi to score a third goal for the Ivory Coast almost immediately.

Madagascar, who reached the Cup of Nations quarter-finals as debutants two years ago, attacked relentlessly but could not break down Niger, who conceded six goals when the sides last met. 

An Aboubakar Kamara goal in first-half stoppage time earned Mauritania a 1-0 victory over the Central African Republic in Bangui and the second qualifying place from Group E behind Morocco.

– Scare for Senegal –

It will be the second successive appearance at the finals of the premier African national team competition for the Mauritanians, who are coached by Frenchman Corentin Martins.

In Bissau, Guinea-Bissau trounced fellow contenders Congo Brazzaville 3-0 through goals from Piqueti, Frederic Mendy and Jorge Intima to come second in Group I behind Senegal.

Already-qualified Senegal avoided a shock home loss to lowly Eswatini when Crystal Palace defender Cheikhou Kouyate snatched a 96th-minute equaliser for a 1-1 draw in Thies.

Only pride was at stake as Nigeria overcame Lesotho 3-0 in Group L with goals from Victor Osimhen, Oghenekaro Etebo and Paul Onuachu in Lagos.

The clash between Sierra Leone and Benin in Freetown to decide who joins Nigeria at the finals in Cameroon next January did not start as scheduled at 1600 local time (1600 GMT) due to a Covid-19 row. 

Benin refused to accept positive tests that would have sidelined five of their squad and it was not clear whether the match would be played later Tuesday or postponed to Wednesday. 

Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia and Zimbabwe have also qualified.