Source: www.africanakua.com | Napoleon Ato Kittoe, Ghana
A drama-filled Group 16 match between Ghana and Tunisia in Ismailia, Egypt, went the way of the North Africans. After extra time drawn game, Ghana missed one of five kicks whilst Tunisia converted all in the penalty shootout. The blot stood in the name of Substitute Ekuban. The result means Ghana’s hunt for a fifth continental title remains a tantalizing mirage. For the motioning Tunisia, a bit of a luck continues to guide her tailwind.
Tunisia has not won any game in open play in the tournament, drawing with Angola, Mali and Mauritania. In the game against Ghana, Tunisia only found her rhythm after a quarter of an hour, with hard runs into Ghana’s territory. Though Ghana played well in this game, an improvement on previous matches, the forays by Tunisia exposed Ghana’s vulnerability when opponents draw rings around the defence. Again, Ghana wobbles anytime a shot is unleashed in crowded goal area.
The ding battle raged on until the South African referee Victor Gomez disallowed what appeared to be a perfect goal by Andre Ayew who sent a back heel into the Tunisian net. Television footage replays showed that Ghana’s Thomas Partey did not handle the ball in the 18 yard box before the goal was scored. Setting the ground rules of Afcon 2019, Confederation of African Football, CAF, indicated video assistance referee, VAR, will be invoked from the quarter finals stage. Ghana will rue the highly controversial decision taken by the referee.
Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan who came on as substitute nearly fetched a goal from two headers. Man of the match, Wakasu Mubarak also grazed the post with a long ranger. Jordan Ayew’s half volley at goal in extra time, was a great opportunity gone begging. The Tunisians also hit the post in the first half on second attempt at goal. Substitute Khaziri also had his well directed bullet blocked by Ghana’s goalie Richard Ofori.
Two moments of revelry and poignancy were the goals that put the two on parity. Tunisia exploited the left back of Ghana’s defence, as an attacker shrugged off a challenge on the right corner and sent in a low cross for a connection into goal. The Ghana defence was in sixes and sevens. That was about sixteen minutes to the end of regulation time. Inside injury time, a Tunisian defender at the end of a Wakasu long ball in a boiling goalmouth, headed into his own net with his goalkeeper off his line.
A comedy of near misses characterized thirty minutes of extra time. This was umpteenth penalty loss by Ghana in all international competitions. For Tunisia, it was sweet revenge against Ghana who have been their nemesis for God’s knows when.
Carthage Eagles have for once found a way past the Black Stars whose trophy drought, now goes beyond the fear of the known to the unknown.
A Ghana without a playmaker has gifted a match well under her control, to Tunisia. On the nick of penalties, the Tunisians replaced their brave goalie with another who appear to be the man with balls to face football’s firing squad. The substitute goalie rose to the occasion, diving to his right to stop the kick taken by unlucky Ekuban.