Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Monday 23 January 2012
Gabon (2) – (0) Niger
Fellow Tournament co-hosts Gabon got there campaign up and running at Stade d’Angondjé in Libreville with a comfortable 2 – 0 win over a nervous looking Niger team. Gabon were always in command of this game, but it was not until the half-hour mark that the breakthrough was made. Niger had chances to clear their lines before the ball broke to Stephane Nguema, who from the right, put over a deep cross that Niger keeper Kassaly Daouda always looked like he was struggling to reach. With the ball heading seemingly out of play, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang headed in unchallenged from a very tight angle. Will half-time approaching Gabon struck again. The danger on this occasion came from the left wing as Moussouno’s cross was headed on target by the dangerous Aubameyang. Niger keeper Daouda brilliantly saved this close range effort, but the rebound was easily put way by Stephane Nguema to send Gabon in at half-time with a deserved 2 – 0 lead. The second-half saw Gabon continue to dominate the game and create chances, but Niger held out. Both co-hosts start with a win to keep the home fans happy.
Morocco (1) – (2) Tunisia
This North African ‘derby’ saw Tunisia emerge winners, although Morocco will feel they should have at least got a draw. In a fairly open first forty five minutes, Tunisia were thankful that their keeper Mathlouthi was in such good form. Morocco created the better chances and it was somewhat against the run of play that Tunisia went ahead. On 33 minutes, a floated free-kick from Khaled Korbi found its way into the net, with the Moroccan keeper seemingly distracted and therefore late diving as Tunisian forward Saber Khelifa tried to flick-on the free-kick. Morocco continued to create chances, but were unable to beat Mathlouthi in the Tunisian goal. For the second-half Morocco coach Eric Gerets’ brought on Adel Taraabt for Oussama Assaidi to seek an early equaliser. The change saw Morocco continue to create chances but Mathlouthi continue to keep the Moroccans at bay. With Tunisia happy to play on the break they scored a second goal on 75 minutes. Substitute Youssef Msakni received the ball outside the Moroccan penalty area and in a twisting run past three defenders slotted home to double the Tunisian lead. With just four minutes remaining Morocco gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Houcine Kharjah scored. It came from a corner which was not fully cleared, with the ball eventually being knocked back into the box by Ahmed Kantari for the Moroccan captain Kharjah to stab home. With five minutes of time added on, Morocco searched desperately for an equaliser, but it never came. Marouane Chamakh has had a difficult season to date at The Emirates and it continued here tonight. It’s a cliché, but you have to take your chances, and tonight Morocco were wasteful.
Group C resumes on Friday 27 January, with Niger v Tunisia and Gabon v Morocco.