FRANCEVILLE, Gabon, January 6 – Ghana continued their march to a fifth Africa Cup of Nations title with a 2-1 extra time win over Tunisia in the quarter-finals here Sunday.
“We were not surprised we were taken to extra time by a very good Tunisia team, but the most important thing is that we are in the semi-finals,” said Ghana assistant coach Kwesi Appiah.
Appiah criticised the ill discipline exhibited by the north Africans towards the end of the match.
“They made football look like war and I hope the authorities do something about such bad tackles and behaviour, which are not good for African football,” he said.
Tunisia coach Sami Trabelsi said his team did not deserve to crash out at this stage of the competition, while admitting his players became “a little excitable” late in the game.
“We are very disappointed we cannot go farther than this because we did not deserve to lose this game, which we dominated but could not score more than a goal,” Trabelsi said.
“My only reproach to the players is that they lost their nerves and we became a little too excitable when we still had over 16 minutes to change things in the second half of extra time.”
Skipper John Mensah opened the scoring for Ghana in the 10th minute, when he headed home at the near post off a corner from the left.
The 29-year-old Lyon defender was a doubt for this game as he was nursing a thigh muscle injury, but he passed a late fitness test to score his second goal of the tournament.
Tunisia drew level in the 42nd minute through Evian striker Sabeur Khalifa when he headed bravely past Ghana goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey off a clever cross by Zouhaier Dhaouadi from the right flank.
Ghana regained the lead in the 101th minute after Tunisia goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi dropped a harmless-looking cross for Andre Ayew to roll home from five yards out.
Toulouse centre half Aymen Abdennour was sent off in the 108th minute for an elbow on goal scorer Ayew to reduce Tunisia to 10 men.
It was a mostly cautious start by both teams as attack swung from both ends of the pitch in the early minutes, before Ghana took the lead.
In the 17th minute, Badu’s flicked header missed narrowly off yet another corner as Ghana were quicker to settle down in this encounter.
They dictated proceedings in the first half hour as Tunisia struggled to find a rhythm and their attacking play was disjointed.
However, the 2004 champions soon after began to force issues as half time approached with Jamel Saihi firing a decent shot at the Ghana goal in the 38th minute.
Their more positive approach will earn them the equaliser three minutes from the break to set the tone for the second half.
On 70 minutes Tunisia dangerman Youssef Msakni’s shot was deflected for a corner by defender Isaac Vorsah.
Andre Ayew’s corner was sailing directly into the net a minute later before Mathlouthi scrambled it away for another corner.
And soon after the Marseille forward saw his header sail over the bar as he out jumped the entire Tunisia defence.
Ghana piled on more pressure for Kwadwo Asamoah to set up Gyan, whose low volley from point-blank range in the 75th minute was blocked by a diving Mathlouthi.
Moments later, substitute Jordan Ayew also ran at the Tunisia defence before he released a low shot, which the Tunisia goalkeeper saved at first attempt.
In the 85th minute, Brest new signing Issam Jemaa fired from distance, but Kwarasey was equal to the task as he produces a fine save.
At the start of extra-time, Jemaa found the back of the net but his effort was disallowed for off side.
Mathlouthi then saved a one-on-one situation against Jordan Ayew before Msakni’s tap right inside the box missed the Ghana goal narrowly in additional time of extra time.
In second half extra time, Andre Ayew again came close, before Tunisia launched a late rally that failed to yield any rewards.