France-ville, February 5, 2012
France-ville, February 5, 2012
Tournament co-favourites Ghana are still on course for dream final against Ivory Coast after the Black Stars beat Tunisia 2-1 after extra time to book a semi-final clash with Zambia on Wednesday. Ghana edged Tunisia in a fiery match played in Franceville , Gabon.
Ghana drew first blood courtesy of returning captain John Mensah’ second goal of the tournament ten minutes unto the match. In similar fashion to his first goal against Botswana during the his side’s opening match, Mensah reacted quickest in the box from a corner kick and headed past Aymen Mathlouthi.
Ghana had midfielder Sulley Muntari back in the side? but for the first time since 2006 defender and stand in captain John Panstil missed out on starting as Black Stars coach Goran Stevanovich a solid side.
Tunisian coach Sami Trabelsi brought back into the side amongst others goalkeeper Mathlouthi and captain Karim Hagui.
Ghana dominated the early exchanges and bossed the midfield with Dede Auew Emmanuel Badu and Muntari lively. Tunisia looked rattled by the early goal and struggled to get into rhythm and the frustration was evident when captain Hagui was booked for dissent when an appeal for a penalty was waved away.
Ghana ‘s Asamoah Gyan sent a shot just wide of Mathlouthi’s goal while a rocket of a shot from Badu sailed centimeters off the upright during a period the Black Stars were on top. Tunisia did look dangerous though whenever Yousef Msakni was on the ball. The Esperance man played in some through balls to Khalil Chammem and Zouhaier Dhaouadi as the Carthage Eagles looked to hit back. In the 42nd minute very much against the run of play Tunisia found the equalizer through Sabeur Khalifa. The tall striker headed past Larsen Kwarasey after Ghana had failed to clear a high ball from a couple of attempts. Dhaoudi ‘s chip was too high for defender Samuel Inkoom at the far post but Khalifa attacked the ball from close range and knocked in an equalizer.
A few minutes into the second half Ghana was forced to make a change as captain John Mensah went down under a challenge to be replaced by Isaac Vorsah. Both teams stepped up play with chances opening up at both ends. Badu went on a mazy run and let go a stinger of a shot which was on target until a Tunisia defender blocked it and from the resultant corner kick, substitute Vorsah was just centimeters over the bar with a header. At the other end Msakni saw his effort bundled out for a corner before Jamel Saihi broke through on goal and was only stopped by a timely tackle from John Boye.
The game was now fiercely contested with both sides looking for the winning goal during the dying minutes of the match. Substitute Issam Jemaa almost won it for Tunisia when he let fly from a distance and Kwarasey had to beat the shot away for a corner kick. Gyan then turned his man inside the box before shooting but his effort whistled past Mathloutthi’s left hand post and the tie was heading for extra time.
In the first period of extra time Tunisia aided by fresh substitutes pressurized the Ghanaian defence sensing the momentum was with them. Ghana broke at the other end and the Black Stars could not believe their luck when the outstanding goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi gifted them a goal. Mathlouthi went up to collect a cross and seemed to have the ball gathered but as he came down he dropped it at Andrea Ayew’s feet and the midfielder gladly accepted the gift and scored Ghana’s second goal. Tunisia went down to ten men after Aymen Abdennour was sent off for raising his hands on Dede Ayew.
The Carthage Eagles went in search of the equalizing goal while Ghana defended for their lives. Ghana hung on for victory and now head to Bata Equatorial Guinea where they meet Zambia in the semi-final on Wednesday.