African Cup of Nations - Tunisia win late over Niger

Fri, 27 Jan 18:01:00 2012

Tunisia made a big step towards booking their place in the quarter-finals of the African Cup of Nations with a dramatic 2-1 win over Niger at the Stade de Angondje in Libreville.

2012 African Cup of Nations Msakni - 0

In a frantic opening 10 minutes Youssef Msakni opened the scoring for Tunisia with a fine individual effort before William Tonji Ngounou levelled in controversial and comical circumstances.

For so long it looked as though the Menas were going to get their first point of the tournament, but substitute Issam Jemaa's 90th-minute winner left them with no reward for their efforts.

The win means that the Eagles of Carthage will go through with a game to spare if co-hosts Gabon do not lose to Morocco in the other Group C fixture to be played later on Friday.

Tunisia came into their second group game off the back of a 2-1 win over north African rivals Morocco, and they picked up where they left off with just four minutes on the clock.

Msakni had attempted nine dribbles in that win over Morocco, more than any other player in the first round of matches, and it was another of those solo runs which led to the opener.

The Esperance Sportive de Tunis midfielder exploited the huge gap left in the Niger defence left by Jimmy Bulus by weaving his way into the box and sidefooting a clinical low finish past the outstretched arm of Daouda Kassaly for his second goal of the tournament.

Niger forward Maazou, currently on loan at Belgian side Zulte Waregem, gave Tunisia a sign of how his pace would harm their defence early on when he raced on to a ball over the top only for his first touch to let him down.

The 23-year-old striker then played a big part in his team's ninth-minute equaliser. Tunisia goalkeeper allowed a high ball forward to bounce in the area and the spin of the ball caused him trouble. Maazou leapt with the floundering keeper and there was more than a hint of handball as the ball broke loose for William to head into the unguarded net.

Maazou continued to terrorise the sluggish Tunisia back line throughout, blazing one effort wide of the near post and sidefooting another inches off target as he latched on to several slide-rule passes down the channels.

Niger then had a strong claim for a penalty turned down in the run-up to half-time when Maazou met another good through ball and appeared to be brought down in the box by Karim Haggui, but Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe waved play on.

Tunisia manager Sami Trabelsi made two changes, bringing on Jemaa at half-time and Oussama Darragi soon afterwards.

The match began to open up as Tunisia struggled to keep the pace of the game down. Midway through the half Aymen Abdennour had a shot rattle off the far post, and a rapid Niger counter saw Maazou again leave Tunisia all at sea and Mathlouthi had to sprint off his line to deny the Niger striker a free shot at goal.

Niger captain Abdoul Karim Lancina drilled a low free-kick right at Mathlouthi from 25 yards, not long after Jemaa had shown his threat by having a shot on the turn blocked inside the box by Mohamed Chicoto after more great work from Msakni.

But in the final minute of the 90 the Auxerre forward was not to be denied when he beat the offside trap, evaded a challenge inside the box and fired a left-footed strike home to seal a dramatic win that broke Niger hearts.

Tony Mabert - @tony_mabert / Eurosport

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