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AFCON Day 6: Tunisia top Group B as Cape Verde, DR Congo lack bite
Tunisia pulled clear in Group B as they overcame a determined Zambian side to maintain their unbeaten streak over their opponents in AFCON matches while Cape Verde and DRC played out a barren stalemate.
Tunisia; Mathlouthi, Maaloul, Abdenour, Ben Youssef, Bedoui, Ragued, Saihi, Chikhaoui, Msakni, Khazri, Akaichi
Zambia; Mweene, Sunzu, Mbola, Nkausu, Munthali, Musonda, Mtonga, Mayuka, Kangwa, Singuluma, Kalaba
Tunisia edged Zambia via their superior quality in an entertaining even match-up. Both sides scored in the second half; Mayuka giving Zambia the lead while Akaichi and Chikhaoui won it for les Carthage Aigles. The Tunisians made three changes for this game; Moncer, Hamza Mathlouthi and Nater making way for Bedoui, Msakni and Ragued whereas the Zambians started Munthali, Kangwa and Musonda in place of Lungu, Sinkala and Kampanda.
After drawing their respective opening fixtures both teams needed 3 points to alleviate pressure going into the final group matches; and the game served up that with an end to end game. Tunisia started the stronger and had a penalty appeal waved away after Khazri’s flick came off Sunzu’s arm. Leeken’s low scoring outfit didn’t make it count and soon the impetus was on Zambia. They took control of the game for the rest of the first half but, they too, couldn’t score despite carving out better chances.
Chipolopolo continued their dominance in the second half and went through several chances, Kalaba creating them and Mayuka spurning them, before they finally broke the deadlock on the hour mark. Emmanuel Mayuka got clinical and volleyed home from close range after Kalaba’s brilliant work on the left. The Zambians then had a chance almost immediately after to pull ahead but Mayuka could not connect with Kalaba’s cross across goal. Unfortunately, that was Mayuka’s last contribution as he was subbed off following an injury from his slide.
Tunisia went into ascendancy as Zambia lost the potency of Mayuka and their aggressive pressing game cooled off. Injury-replacement, Akaichi stabbed home the equalizer from a corner kick. Tunisia, despite holding momentum, had to endure Zambian break-aways before they finally sealed it through skipper Yassine Chikhaoui. Msakni gained space on the left before floating a delightful ball onto Chikhaoui who nodded past Mweene.
Cape Verde; Vozinha, Varela, Gege, Stopira, Carlitos, Babanco, Calu, Rocha, Mendes, Tavares, Kuca
DR Congo: Kidiaba, Mongonga, Kasusula, Kimwaki, Mbemba, Issama, Mulumbu, Bolasie, Mabwati, Mabidi, Mbokani
Cape Verde and DR Congo flattered to deceive with their attacking football reputation as they played out an uninspiring goalless draw.
The Islanders were the stronger team in the first half but found it difficult to get behind DRC’s defense. In a half of no clear cut chances only Bolasie’s elusive cross and decent freekick deliveries by Babanco stood out as semblance to attacking prowess. Cape Verde could not make their possession count even as Mulumbu was withdrawn after a hamstring injury.
The second half read from the same monotonous script only that the roles were reversed; DRC showing the greater intent for a goal. They too showed a lack of quality upfront and almost got punished as the game came to a close. TP Mazembe goalkeeper, Muteba Kidiaba, made his quality and experience show as he pulled off a double-save; he parried Varela’s header towards Gege but was still swift enough to deny him from the rebound. Moments later, he kept out Heldon as the game fizzled out.