19 January 2017

Africa: Tunisia Down Algeria to Keep Hopes Alive

An own goal by Amir Bensebaini and Naim Sliti in the second half was enough for Tunisia to beat Algeria 2-1 in their Group B Day 2 clash on Thursday in Franceville. Substitute Sofiane Hanni pulled one back for Algeria in the dying minutes but it was little late as 'Les Fennecs' remain without a win at the tournament.

The victory serves a huge boost for the Tunisians, who succumbed to a 0-2 loss to Senegal in the Group B opener last Sunday at the same venue. The Carthage Eagles have three points from two games whilst Algeria has just a point from same number of matches.

It was a closely contested first half with few chances for either side though Algeria was slightly on top in terms of possession.

In the opening minutes, Ayman Mathlouthi was to his side's rescue with a timely save from a goalmouth action as both sides began to find their feet.

The Etoile du Sahel shot-stopper was on hand again to deny 'Les Fennecs' the opener, with a cool save of a Riyad Mahrez shot after his Leicester City teammate Islam Slimani put him through.

Two minutes later, it was at the other end as Hamdi Naguez let go a cross which flew across the face of the Algerian ball, but Wahab Khazri failed to tap in.

Both sides had equal share of dominance until the Carthage Eagles shot into the lead four minutes after recess courtesy a Youssef Msakni cross that deflected off the foot of Algerian defender Bensebaini into the net, leaving goalkeeper Malek Asselah with no option.

It was a perfect start to the second half for the Tunisians, who needed the maximum points to keep their chances of surviving in the competition intact.

Being a goal down, the Algerians were forced to throw more men forward in search of the equalizer. That option will later turn costly leading to the second goal of the Tunisians. A feeble header back pass by Faouzi Ghoulam was intercepted by Khazri, and with only Asselah to beat, the latter was tripped by Ghoulam for a penalty.

Midfielder Sliti, whose wife is Algerian, made no mistake by sending Asselah the wrong way for the second goal on 65 minutes.

Few minutes later, Algeria coach George Leekens brought on forward Baghdad Bounedjah for Rachid Ghezzal to strengthen his attack.

Seven minutes from time, an Algerian attack involving Slimani, Bounedjah and substitute Sofiane Hanni saw Tunisian defender Ayman Abdennour intercepting Slimani's goalbound shot.

With four minutes remaining, Tunisian goalie Mathlouti was pulled out after sustaining an injury, with Rami Jeridi his replacement.

Tried as the Algerians did, they could get a consolation through Hanni, who slammed home from a Adlene Guediora cross in added-on time.

Total Man of the Match

Youssef Msakni (Tunisia)

Reactions

George Leekens (Head Coach, Algeria)

It is a fact that we lost today. We started well and were very motivated, but along the line, we were undone by two individual mistakes. Both goals were avoidable and we were also not efficient in front of goal. We know how to play, but there were a lot of costly individual errors. Collectively, we played well but the problem was the transition from defence to attack, and the problem of balance as well. Sometimes, you also need a bit of luck in matches, and today we were unlucky.

Henri Kasperczak (Head Coach, Tunisia)

Today was a different game compared to the one against Senegal (which we lost 0-2). The team recovered physically after the defeat to Senegal and there were a lot of positives from that match. We made the maximum out of the situation. We were efficient today and managed to score, which is the only way you can win matches. Algeria played well, unfortunately things did not work out for them. We can always go far as long as we take our chances in every game.

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