Tunisia 2-2 Senegal – Mejdi Traoui the hero as Tunisia earn a late draw

Senegal’s opening Group D clash against Tunisia was built up as a grudge match after the Teranga Lions’ controversial exit from 2004 African Cup of Nations by the same opponents. The revenge was seven minutes away until Mejdi Traoui had other ideas. Traoui sweetly connected a 25-yard long ranger that flew into the top left corner of the Senegalese net to earn the Carthage Eagles a valuable 2-2 draw.

Roger Lemerre’s side hardly played to win but achieved the result of their choice against their biggest group rival. The match started in Tamale under hot conditions and the heat took a toll on the players as the game wore on. Although Senegal had most of the play in the opening few minutes, it was the Tunisians that took the lead in the 9th minute with a well taken goal.

France-based striker Issam Jomaa, who plays for Caen, coordinated well with Wissem El Bekri on the left flank before firing in a low tight angle shot that took Senegal goalie Tony Silva by surprise. Senegal tried to respond quickly but their opponents’ tight defensive play restricted the West Africans to long range shootings with star strikers Mamadou Niang and El Hadji Diouf looking largely ineffective. What looked like a job well done half for the North Africans turned into frustration when influential defender Radhi Jaidi made a horrible clearing mistake that saw the ball fall to Moustapha Sall who ran goalwards and levelled things up by firing in a 15-yard strike.

After the break, Henri Kasperczak’s men showed more purpose and pinned down the Tunisian defence as Mamadou Niang and El Hadji Diouf came close to giving Senegal the lead on more than one occasions, with the Marseille striker particularly wasteful. Fulham forward Diomansy Kamara missed a clear-cut chance when he failed to hit the target from a perfectly measured cross from captain El Hadji Diouf inside the penalty box.

Senegal’s positive attacking intent was finally rewarded when in the 66th minute Kamara stabbed the ball home from close range after some initial panic in the Tunisian defence following a corner from the left.

Senegal seemed to be heading for the win when Mejdi Traoui came up with a special equalising goal in the 83rd minute. Given Tunisia’s second-half performance, the equaliser is hardly deserved but as in every football match missed opportunities do come back to haunt and the Teranga Lions would certainly rue the opportunities that fell to Niang and Kamara.

All four teams in Group D have a point each after Tamale’s late game saw Angola share the spoils against South Africa. Substitute Club Brugge midfielder Elrio Van Heerden’s stunning late strike earned Carlos Alberto Perreira’s men a point after Manchester United prospect Manucho Goncalves superbly headed the Angolans into a first-half lead in his African Cup of Nations debut in an entertaining clash. Van Heerden’s spectacular 30-yard curler at the death is the latest in a series of long range sparklers that have lit up the tournament so far.

Certainly the African players are showing their prowess in their long range shooting although many have blamed the teams on show of failing to close down their opponents which is giving ample opportunities for piledrivers. Who cares? Goals afterall make games entertaining these days.

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