Africa Cup of Nations: Tenacious Tunisia deny Zambia

April 6, 2021

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The 2004 champions were the first team to win a match in the so-called ‘Group of Draw’ with a 2-1 victory over Zambia.

The second qualifying place from Group B is still up for grabs, however, after Cape Verde and the Democratic Republic of Congo played out a goalless draw in the late game.

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That result will cheer the free-flowing Zambians, who had created the best chances as dusk began to settle around the tree-fringed Estadio De Ebebiyin.

Captain Rainford Kalaba and Emmanuel Mayuka fed off one another up front but shot after shot failed to find its target.

The 2012 champions — who had not lost an AFCON match since 2010 — had to wait until the 59th minute for Mayuka to fire them into a deserved lead.

Kalaba darted through the Tunisia defense to set up Mayuka, who buried the ball deep into the net and celebrated with a series of back flips.

The striker’s acrobatics proved more painful just minutes later.

As he stretched to reach another cross from Kalaba, his legs split wide and he was eventually carried off the field.

The untimely injury to the talismanic striker, who is on the books of English Premier League side Southampton, was the turning point of the match.

While he was being treated on the sidelines, Tunisia spied a chance to take a run at 10-man Zambia.

The equalizer, a tap in by Ahmed Akaichi, came all too easily.

As darkness fell on the town of Ebebiyin, in the north east corner of host nation Equatorial Guinea, the crowd raised its voice, urging on a winner.

The decisive goal came from Tunisia captain Yassine Chikhaoui in the 89th minute when the FC Zurich player rose clear, heading the ball into the net.

‘That was not the Zambia I know,’ the team captain Kalaba told reporters. ‘I don’t know what came into the mind of my colleagues after we scored. I was shocked to see the way they played.’

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Tunisia now leads Group B on four points ahead of Cape Verde and DR Congo on two points and Zambia, which has a single point.

The second match at the lively Estadio De Ebebiyin saw Cape Verde and DR Congo play out a physical, often scrappy, draw.

Cape Verde represent the smallest country at AFCON — the island territory stretches to just 1.5 square miles –but the ‘Blue Sharks’ have big ambitions.

At its tournament debut in the 2013 edition of AFCON, the islanders reached the quarter finals and Rui Aguas’ men came close to joining Tunisia on the cusp of the last eight again, Thursday.

The ball was inches from the line when defender Admilson Barros — known as Gege — attempted to bundle it into the net only to be denied by the swift fingers of Robert Kidiaba.

The Congo DR keeper then stooped low to brilliantly deny Heldon Ramos when he had wriggled his way clear on goal.

The Leopards’ threat was blunted early in the match when West Bromwich Albion midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu limped off.

Cedrick Mabwati emerged as Congo DR’s target man but there was ultimately no breakthrough for either side.

The ‘Group of Draw’ may be no more but Zambia, Congo DR and Cape Verde are all hunting an elusive win in Monday’s decisive Group B matches.

Read: Congo snaps 41-year win drought

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Follow us at @CNNSport and like us on Facebook The Leopards’ threat was blunted early in the match when West Bromwich Albion midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu limped off. The 2004 champions were the first team to win a match in the so-called ‘Group of Draw’ with a 2-1 victory over Zambia. The untimely injury to the talismanic striker, who is on the books of English Premier League side Southampton, was the turning point of the match. Read: Teams unite against Ebola As he stretched to reach another cross from Kalaba, his legs split wide and he was eventually carried off the field. Tunisia now leads Group B on four points ahead of Cape Verde and DR Congo on two points and Zambia, which has a single point. Read: Teams unite against Ebola Cape Verde represent the smallest country at AFCON — the island territory stretches to just 1.5 square miles –but the ‘Blue Sharks’ have big ambitions. Cape Verde represent the smallest country at AFCON — the island territory stretches to just 1.5 square miles –but the ‘Blue Sharks’ have big ambitions. Follow us at @CNNSport and like us on Facebook Captain Rainford Kalaba and Emmanuel Mayuka fed off one another up front but shot after shot failed to find its target. Read: Teams unite against Ebola Read: Teams unite against Ebola The ball was inches from the line when defender Admilson Barros — known as Gege — attempted to bundle it into the net only to be denied by the swift fingers of Robert Kidiaba.

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