Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Friday 27 January 2012

Group C:

Niger (1) – (2) Tunisia

Tunisia (nicknamed, Les Aigles de Carthage, The Eagles of Carthage) had three points in the bag coming into the fixture whilst their opponents Niger (nicknamed, Mena) were yet to get off the mark. It was possible that if Tunisia and Gabon won today, then both Morocco and Niger would be eliminated. It was an all-action start to this game. Within the opening minutes Niger striker Moussa Maazou was through on goal, but his first touch was so leaden that the ball simply ran through to Mathlouthi in the Tunisian goal. Almost straight away with only 3 minutes gone, following a patient build-up from the back, Youssef Msakni picked up the ball in the Niger half and drove in on goal. As the defence backed off, Msakni continued his run into the box and he got lucky as the less than convincing challenge from Olivier Bonnes allowed the Tunisian forward to put in a shot on goal, which just had enough pace to find the Niger net. The lead was short-lived though and the equaliser was perhaps controversial. On 8 minutes a challenge out on the wing between attacker and defender lead to the ball ballooning and spinning into the Tunisian box. Mathlouthi in goal didn’t catch the ball as it came down and let the ball bounce, as it spun back Niger’s Moussa Maazou jumped with the keeper. However, Maazou leapt leading with his right arm and as he did, his hand seemed to flip the ball away from the keeper. A grateful William Tonji Ngounou headed the ball into the unguarded Tunisian net. Despite protests the goal stood and will once again it will raise the debate in certain quarters about using technology to assist referees with incidents. During the remainder of the half, Moussa Maazou came more and more into the game with his strong direct running worrying the Tunisian defence. However as the whistle went for half-time, it was all square at 1-1. Niger came out strongly in the second period and looked a different team to that which lost to Gabon. As the second-half ebbed and flowed Moussa Maazou for Niger and Youssef Msakni for Tunisia continued to provide the main threats for their respective teams. However, with five minutes remaining Tunisia upped the pressure on their opponents. Niger were closing in on their first ever point in the Finals, but on 90 minutes, a through ball caught the Niger defence square which allowed Issam Jemaa to run on into the box, where he cut across the defence before firing home past Chicoto in the Niger goal. In time added-on Tunisia could have scored again but were denied by the crossbar. Tunisia emerged winners 2-1 and go through to the knock-out phase, whilst Niger are still looking for their first ever point in the Finals.


Gabon (3) – (2) Morocco

With fellow co-hosts Equatorial Guinea already through to the next phase, there was real pressure on Gabon (nicknamed, Les Panthères – The Panthers) to also progress. Their task though was not an easy one as they took on Morocco (nicknamed, the Lions of the Atlas), who although they lost in their opening game to Tunisia, had created numerous chances, but were profligate in front of goal. As a result Morocco made four changes to the side from the opening game. Despite a fever pitch inside the game the opening 20 minutes were pretty cagey, attritional and at times physical. Nevertheless on 24 minutes, an incisive ball from Younes Belhanda who had cut in from the wing, found Houssine Kharjah in the box. The Moroccan controlled and shifted the ball to his left foot before crisply shooting into the right hand corner of the net. With Morocco 1-0 ahead the rest of the half petered out to a scrappy conclusion which saw both sets of players and managers involved in some heated exchanges. In the second half, Morocco continued to take the sting out of the Gabon attacking threat and as the last fifteen minutes approached seemed in control. Then in a situation much seen at the Britannia Stadium, Gabon’s Charly Moussonou launched a long throw into the penalty area. Moroccan substitute Jamal Alioui’s misplaced header flicked the ball on and from around the penalty spot area, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit a sweet volley to level the scores. With the home crowd still feverishly celebrating, Gabon won possession in the Moroccan half and moved the ball wide. The ensuing cross was controlled by substitute Daniel Cousin who turned and shot, it was a scuffed attempt that hit the inside of the post and nestled into the net; suddenly Gabon had scored two goals in two minutes. Still there was more drama to come, as Morocco broke into the Gabon box in the final minute and had a shot handled by Charly Moussonou. Up stepped Houssine Kharjah who calmly slotted home his second and Morocco’s equaliser for 2-2. The Gabon crowd was now silent and sat nervously through time added on. Then in the 97th minute Gabon were awarded a free-kick. One more twist in this game came to pass as substitute Bruno Zita Mbanangoye curled in a winner for the co-hosts. Good though the free-kick was, there will be questions asked about the lack of protection offered by the Moroccan wall and keeper Nadir Lamyaghri’s positioning. Gabon celebrated and another of the tournament favourites Morocco were out. Just another day in a competition that is supplying twists, turns and surprise aplenty.


Final Group C fixtures: Tuesday 31 January – Gabon v Tunisia and Niger v Morocco

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Posted January 29, 2012 by Editor in category "2012 Africa Cup of Nations

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