Senegal took the first win of the 2017 African Cup of Nations with a flattering 2-0 victory against Tunisia.
Senegal stung Tunisia with two first half goals, one from Sadio Mane and one from Kara.
Mane scored from the spot after Diouf was brought crashing down by a rogue challenge from former Monaco player Abdennour.
Kara Mbodji scored the second from a corner as he rose above a whole pack of players to head into the left hand side of the net.
Senegal were anonymous after the first half and Tunisia played dazzling build-ups but just could not find the back of the net. Their second half renaissance could definitely be pinned down to the side bringing on Sunderland’s Khazri.
Main striker Akaichi missed an abundance of chances while Msakni was even more guilty of this.
There were also bizarre near-goals for Tunisia. First of all, there was a corner kick which nearly curled directly into the back of the net only for it to come off the knee of Yannick Diallo. It still seems indefinite as to whether it crossed the line as no clear angles were shown on the live feed.
Second of all: Senegalese goalscorer Kara nearly scored in the wrong net. Sliti’s blocked shot came at pace towards Kara in the box and he sliced the ball backwards hitting it off the inside of his own post.
It was an agonising defeat for Tunisia but they will hold hope in doing well in the group after an excellent performance that was only devoid of a goalscorer.
Tunisia didn’t waste time in creating the first chance of the game. Left-back Maaloul put the ball in a dangerous area from a free-kick. It picked out Akaichi in the middle of the box but he could only head wide and left of the post.
Soon after this chance Keita hit a shot from outside of the box weakly wide. He had a fair amount of space and definitely could have got a better shot on goal.
Tunisia conceded a penalty after a reckless tackle. Sadio Mane played an excellent throughball into the box which Mame Biram Diouf ran onto. On the right hand side of the area Diouf was brought tumbling down by Abdennour. The former Monaco centre-back hurled himself at the Stoke forward with a sliding tackle which missed the ball by a long way. Needless to say he was booked for the challenge.
Senegal took the lead with Mane dispatching the penalty with a cool, powerful finish into the bottom left corner. Adding to the already large list of big names finding the net along with Aubameyang and Mahrez.
Tunisia missed a glorious chance to retake the lead. Akaichi ran through the two Senegalese centre-backs to run onto a loose ball. He was running in on goal one-on-one with only Mathlouthi, the man in between Senegal’s sticks, to beat. However, he slowed in the latter part of the chance and soon had the angle closed slightly. But still it was a great chance and he could only manage to put the shot harmlessly wide.
Senegal added to their lead, Kara beating a cluster of players to head the ball in from a corner. Keita provided the ball from the corner and despite the long distance out, he lept fantastically to powerfully knock the ball into the left hand side of the net.
M’Bengue picked up the second booking of the game after running straight into the back of Suti in the middle of the park bringing the Tunisian down.
Tunisia had a decent chance with less than 10 minutes remaining in the first half. After Mane gave the ball away in midfield, the North African side broke quickly. The ball eventually came to Msakni on the left side of the box, he beat two men with a horizontal run which brought him to the centre of the area but despite all his good work he fired over the bar.
Kalidou was the second Senegalese player to end up in the referee’s book after a rugby-esque tackle which saw him bring down Akaichi by grabbing his leg.
Mane had an excellent chance to stick a third in. Kouyate put a fantastic ball in and Mane who was in an absurd amount of space failed to control the high ball. If he did control it he would have had a one-on-one opportunity.
The second half ended 2-0. A flattering scoreline for Senegal with not many clear cut opportunities wasted other than Akaichi’s breakaway with the scoreline still at 1-0. Senegal only had 3 shots while Tunisia had 5.
Tunisia shook things up at half-time. Sunderland midfielder Khazri came on for Azouna. Khazri had recently had ankle problems after an injury in a warm-up game against Egypt.
Senegal had a half chance after the break. Keita turned Sassi inside out on the right wing and with the ball just within the box he took an ambitious shot which rose well over the bar.
Diouf nearly gave Senegal a third. Keita played in yet another excellent corner which Diouf ran onto only to head just wide of the right post.
Akaichi had yet another chance for Tunisia. A deft, chipped through-ball was played into the forward and while closing in on goal on the right of the box he hit an unclean shot at the near post which forced an easy save from Diallo. Soon after this, Sliti fired a long effort over the bar.
Tunisia came agonisingly close to a goal in a crazy moment from a corner. The ball was whipped in and curled on target. It looked like a goal only for the ball to hit Diallo’s knee and go out. It could well have been a goal and it was very close if not completely over the line.
Akaichi was guilty of yet another big miss when he failed to connect with a fantastic ball sent into the box. The ball was sent in from the right near the byline and Akaichi was in the perfect position to knock it in with his head only to get the lightest of touches, barely getting any power on it and causing the ball to run out wide.
Senegal made their first change bringing Ismaila on for Keita, Tunisia did likewise bringing on Khenissi for Akaichi.
Khazri put an opportunity wide. He then received a sideways pass as his team loitered around the box. Khazri had a decent sight at goal but from within the D he could only shoot low and wide.
There was another bizarre near-goal for Tunisia to add onto the pile with goalscorer down at the Tunisia end, Kara nearly putting the ball into his own net. Sliti’s blocked shot fell at the feet of Kara and the defender sliced the ball sending it backward and off his own post. Diallo came to the rescue, collecting the loose ball as Tunisia’s head coach Henryk Kasperczak looked on wondering how on earth the ball did not go in.
Tunisia’s Msakni somehow managed not to pull a goal back for Tunisia after having a free header from a corner. After a short corner routine, a ball was whipped in. Msakni lay unmarked and close to the goal. Positioned slightly towards the near post, the ball fell to him, it looked like a surefire goal. He headed the ball down into the ground but it somehow went wide of the left post. Yet another huge opportunity wasted.
Senegal made their second change bringing Saivet on for N’Diaye.
Msakni missed yet another huge chance and Msakni was the culprit again. Sliti played a low through-ball into the box, it split the defence perfectly and played Msakni in on goal. Msakni squandered yet another chance though as despite the glorious chance he squandered it, imposing a tighter angle upon himself with his run and taking a poor shot which went straight at Diallo.
Senegal made their third and final substitution late in the game bringing on Diop for Kouyate.
Yet another huge chance went wayward for Tunisia deep into stoppage time. Naguez played a ball into the middle from the right. His byline cross picked out Knenessi who got his shot all wrong as the ball got between his head and right shoulder and looped over the crossbar.
And so the game somehow ended 2-0 to Senegal. Senegal were complete passengers in the second half and looked non-existent as Tunisia missed chance after chance after chance.
Both sides will go into their second games with a bit of optimism. Senegal ,with the satisfaction of holding on for the win, square off against Zimbabwe. Whilst Tunisia, although disappointed at their finishing, will definitely be satisfied with the excellence in the build-up.