AFCON

Tunisia punish Morocco

2012-01-24 07:22
Youssef Msakni (AFP)

Libreville - Tunisia got their 2012 Africa Cup of Nations campaign off to a good start when they defeated rivals Morocco 2-1 in their first Group C clash on Monday night.

Although Eric Gerets’s men created more chances throughout the match, they fell to goals from Saber Khelifa and Youssef Msakni, while Houssine Kharja pulled one goal back late in the second half.

Morocco dominated the opening stages of the match with some quick passing but the first chance of the match fell for Tunisia in the eighth minute when Karim Haggui connected with a cross on the turn, but his shot was pushed away by goalkeeper Nadir Lamyaghri.

Four minutes later Maroaune Chamakh had a great chance to put Morocco ahead when he was put through by a well-timed pass from Mbark Boussoufa, but Tunisian goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi was quick off his line to block the shot.

The Moroccans continued to play with rhythm and in the 18th minute Nordin Amrabat released Boussoufa on the right but his first time shot was blocked by Mathlouhi at the near post.

The Carthage Eagles almost got a goal from nothing five minutes left as Zouhei Dhaouadi managed to confuse his marker before taking a long range shot that crashed against the upright with the goalkeeper beaten.

Marouane Chamakh won a free kick just outside the box for the Atlas Lions in the 27th minute but Badr El Kaddouri’s chipped effort was tipped over the bar by Mathlouthi, who was proving to be the busier of the two goalkeepers.

Sami Trabelsi’s men opened the scoring in the 33rd minute under strange circumstances when Khaled Korbi delivered a free kick into the box from range, but somehow his lobbed effort eluded the Morocco defence, allowing Saber Khelifa to head it past Lamyarghi with the slightest of touches.

Morocco came close to netting the equaliser in the 43rd minute when Younes Belhanda deceived Aymen Abdennour with some fancy footwork before curling the ball towards the far post, but his attempt went wide of the target.

Chamakh had one more chance to level the scores one minute into added time when he connected with a cross from the left flank, but the presence of goalkeeper was enough to cause the Arsenal striker to miss the target from close range.

Eric Gerets introduced Queens Park Rangers midfielder Adel Taarabt immediately after the break and that decision almost paid off just three minutes into the second half when he was setup by Chamakh, but his low drive was pushed around the post by Mathlouthi.

Subsitute Youssouf Hadji had a brilliant chance to make his mark on the game in the 66th minute, just six minutes after coming on, when he received a long ball and eliminated the defender with his first touch only for him to shoot wide after doing all the hard work.

Morocco were made to regret their missed chances nine minutes later through some individual brilliance from substitute Youssef Msakni, who dribbled past a couple of defenders before firing a shot which picked up a deflection from Mehdi Benatia on its way into the back of the net.

Just when it looked like the Tunisians had done enough to grab all three points there was still time for drama in the final minutes of the game as Morocco pulled a goal back in the 86th minute when a cross was headed back across goals by Ahmed Kantari for Kharja to finish from the centre.

There were protests from the Tunisian defenders as Kantari was coming from an offside position but the complaints fell on deaf ears and the goal stood.

Kharja came close to stealing a point for the Atlas Lions in the third minute of added time when he turned two defenders on his way into the box, but his curled effort went just over the crossbar as the Tunisians held on for all three points.

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