Tunisia take last place in the Cup of Nations quarter-finals

Tuesday, 2019-07-09 07:14:25
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Ghana's Jordan Ayew in action with Tunisia's Anice Badri - Africa Cup of Nations 2019 - Round of 16 - Ghana v Tunisia - Ismailia Stadium, Ismailia, Egypt - July 8, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)
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Tunisia edged past Ghana 5-4 on penalties in their last-16 tie on Monday, after a 1-1 extra-time draw, to take the last place in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals.

Ferjani Sassi netted the decisive kick in the shootout as Tunisia kept up their unconvincing progress in the tournament where they next meet rookies Madagascar in the last eight on Thursday.

Tunisia opened the scoring against the run of play when striker Taha Yassine Khenissi netted 17 minutes from time.

But an own goal in stoppage time let Ghana back in and forced the game into extra time as defender Rami Bedoui, who had just come on in a bid to shore up the defence, headed into his own net attempting to clear a lofted free kick from Jordan Ayew.

Tunisia were on the back foot for most of the contest and created few chances but when one came Khenissi proved clinical as he timed his run perfectly to tuck away a cross from flying fullback Wajdi Kechrida in the 73rd minute.

He got in ahead of two defenders to steer it home and break the deadlock in a match where Ghana were the more adventurous but were twice denied by the woodwork.

They did have the ball in the Tunisia net four minutes before halftime but the goal was not given by South African referee Victor Gomes, who ruled that Thomas Partey had handled the ball in the buildup.

Television replays did not support his decision but Partey was offside anyway before he laid the ball off for Dede Ayew to finish.

Ghana centre back Kasim Adams headed against the upright from a corner in the 15th minute and Mubarak Wakaso struck the bottom of the post near the end of the game.

The introduction of Wahbi Khazri, who had been doubtful before the game, proved a tonic for Tunisia and he had a powerful strike in extra time that Ghana goalkeeper Richard Ofori did well to tip over the bar.

With five minutes left Jordan Ayew might have won it for Ghana but miscued his shot and watched in agony as his close-range effort went wide.

Tunisia changed their goalkeeper just before the shootout although Mouez Hassen looked perplexed and angered by coach Alain Giresse’s decision to replace him with Farouk Ben Mustapha.

But it proved a master stroke as Ben Mustapha’s save from Caleb Ekuban in the shootout handed Tunisia success.

The stalemate after two hours of football means Tunisia are in the last eight despite four draws at the tournament, having laboured through the group phase.

Zaha sends Ivory Coast into last eight

Ivory Coast's Wilfried Zaha celebrates scoring their first goal - Africa Cup of Nations 2019 - Round of 16 - Mali v Ivory Coast - Suez Stadium, Suez, Egypt - July 8, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)

Earlier, Ivory Coast forward Wilfried Zaha secured a 1-0 win over Mali with a late goal after their opponents had dominated most of the game and missed a flurry of chances.

Zaha, who had barely featured until then, took advantage as the Mali defence got into a terrible mess from a free kick deep in the Ivorian half in the 76th minute to earn his side a barely deserved win and quarter-final tie against Algeria.

Mali, unbeaten in the group stage, had not beaten their southern neighbours in a competitive match since 1977 but for most of the contest seemed to believe they could end that run.

They played with verve and skill and bossed the first hour with Moussa Djenepo and Abdoulaye Diaby causing endless trouble down the flanks and Moussa Marega a constant threat in attack while Ivory Coast keeper Sylvain Gbohouo lived a charmed life.

He allowed a corner to slip through his fingers but Diaby could not react quickly enough at the far post and turned the ball wide. Moments later, Gbohouo was nearly caught out by a long-range Diaby free kick but managed to turn the ball over.

Hamari Traore surged into the Ivorian penalty area only to blast his shot towards the Suez Canal before Djenepo created Mali's best first half chance with another run down the left but Marega missed from six metres.

Another opportunity went begging at the start of the second period as Marega slipped the ball to Djenepo who had a free run on goal but lost his footing when he seemed poised to score.

Mali began to run out of gas as the Ivory Coast, whose current side is a shadow of the so-called golden generation which won the tournament in 2015, came back into the game.

Jonathan Kodjia should have put the Ivorians ahead when he was sent clear but sent his shot straight at goalkeeper Djigui Diarra who was already on the ground fearing the worst.

But there was no let off shortly afterwards. Gbohouo took a free kick deep inside the Ivorian half, the Malian defence missed the ball and it bounced into the path of Crystal Palace forward Zaha who scored his second goal at the finals.

Adama Traore had a shot blocked by Gbohouo in stoppage time but by then Mali's confidence had been replaced by desperation.

Reuters