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23 Jan 2008 23:15
Battered Tunisia got off the floor to deliver a stunning late goal and draw 2-2 with Senegal on Wednesday in a 2008 Africa Nations Cup Group D thriller.
Issam Jemaa gave the 2004 champions an early lead they held until first-half stoppage time when Bayal Sall equalised and a fierce Senegalese onslaught paid dividends when Diomansy Kamara put them ahead on 66 minutes.
But the Teranga Lions were punished for a host of missed chances when Majdi Traoui unleashed a rocket that flew past motionless goalkeeper Tony Sylva seven minutes from full-time.
Senegal’s Polish coach, Henri Kasperczak, said: “Tunisia had a lot of success with that 30m shot. We should have killed off the game, but the opening match is never easy.
Both teams played well tactically.
It was the first draw of the four-day-old tournament after victories for hosts Ghana, Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, defending champions Egypt and Zambia in the other three groups.
Angola and South Africa were meeting in this northern town later on Wednesday in the final fixture of the first series as 16 countries chase the greatest prize African football has to offer.
Senegal were quickest out of the starting blocks and Tunisian Radhouane Felhi almost conceded an own goal as he headed away an El-Hadji Diouf free kick at the expense of a corner.
But after nine minutes it was the Carthage Eagles who snatched the lead as Jemaa combined with Wissem Bekri before unleashing a low left-foot drive across Sylva into the far corner of the net.
It was only the second goal in 279 minutes of action between the countries whose quarterfinals clash four years ago turned into a mini war before hosts Tunisia triumphed.
Fulham midfielder Diomansy Kamara, one of several English Premiership stars on parade for the Lions, burst through soon after only for goalkeeper Hamdi Kasraoui to dart off his line and avert the danger.
Highly rated France-based striker Mamadou Niang came tantalisingly close to levelling midway through the opening half when he turned twice before just firing wide of the far post.
Diouf was being close guarded with up to three Tunisian minders policing him every time he gained possession, and Yassine Chikhaoui was thwarted by poor control at the other end in a counter-attack.
The Eagles were made to rue the wasted chance as the Lions equalised almost two minutes into stoppage time when captain Radhi Jaidi failed to clear an Ousmane Ndoye pass and Sall beat Kasraoui from close range.
Senegal also began the second half impressively and this time they sustained the pressure, squandering a host of gilt-edge chances before deservedly taking the lead.
Tunisia resembled amateurs rather than former champions as they tried to clear the ball in a goal-mouth scramble and it finally fell invitingly for Kamara, who made no mistake from close range.
After Diouf, Kamara and Niang went close and Kasraoui foiled Diouf, the goal brought relief to coach Kasperczak who has not finished lower than fourth in Nations Cup challenges with Côte d’Ivoire, Tunisia and Mali.
But seven minutes from full-time, Senegal paid dearly for not converting their chances and putting the game beyond the reach of Tunisia when Traoui brought the teams level again. A weak clearance was picked up by 2004 Nations Cup-winning midfielder Jawhar Mnari and his square pass rolled to Traoui, who unleashed a drive that flew into the net.—Sapa-AFP
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