Tunisia was able to snatch victory over Algeria thanks to an unstoppable stoppage minute strike from Youssef Msakni in Rustenburg, during their Africa Cup of Nations Group D encounter on Tuesday night.
The familiar foes met each other in what was surprisingly their first Afcon clash and neither side could find a goal until the 91st minute, when Yousseff Msakni produced a moment of magic to win the game for the Tunisians.
The Algerians went to the match with a slight edge over its opponent and buoyed by a stellar 2012 season, which saw them rise to 2nd ranking in Africa under the firm control of Vahid Halilhodzic.
The north African derby began as expected, as both sides looked intent on closing down their opponent with some rather unforgiving and firm tackles flying in, resulting in a few off-the-ball incidents between the bitter rivals.
Issam Jemaa was a victim of a committed challenge and had to leave the pitch on a stretcher early on in the first half and could not continue for Tunisia, as he was replaced by Hamdi Harbaoui, a severe loss for the Tunisians due to Jemaa’s record in front of goal.
Sofiane Feghouli became the second man to be felled by a late tackle, which resulted in the first yellow card of the match for Aymen Abdennourin in the 13th minute.
The continued stop-start nature of the game meant chances were few and far between until Algeria’s Kadir was able to create some space on his right foot, but could only slice his attempt into the arms of Sharifa. Algeria was beginning to secure some kind of control over proceedings.
The Fennec Foxes came close once more on the 30 minute mark when Feghouli tormented Tunisia down the left and curled in a pinpoint cross to Slimani Islam, who turned the ball towards goal with a header, but his attempt smashed into the crossbar, denying Algeria’s dominance once more.
Algeria could not find any kind of reward for its consistent attacking play and was almost punished by a Tunisia counterattack, when Khlifa burst into space and powered a strike straight at M’Bolhi, who was able to clear the ball out of danger.
Algeria certainly edged proceedings and would have been disappointed not to find the lead as the first half came to a close with the score goalless. However, they would have found solace in their improved display towards the end of the first stanza.
The second half began similarly to the first, as both sides adopted a tactical and measured approach to their play, with Tunisia looking a tad more dangerous in the opening minutes.
It was a rather dreary and frustrating affair until Algeria’s exciting Mesbah charged forward down the center and unleashed a strike with his left boot, which brushed the right post as it went wide.
Algeria began to control matters once more, but faced a disciplined Tunisian defense who barely gave an inch as the second half continued. Guedioura almost found the breakthrough with a scintillating drive towards goal, but his effort clipped the crossbar leaving the player on the floor in agony.
A game which desperately needed a moment of inspiration saw Tunisia’s Harbaoui come close to providing the opener as he was released by Darragi down the left and tried to drive in an effort at the near post, but he sliced his attempt wide.
The game seemed to have petered out until Msakni cut inside and burst forward down the middle, picked his spot and smashed home a shot into the top right corner, sending Tunisian players and fans alike into absolute rapture. The goal was a stunner, and Tunisia earned all three points from the encounter thanks to the moment of magic.
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