Tunisia take bragging rights
A goal in each half was enough to see Tunisia go joint top of Group C as they saw off North African rivals Morocco 2-1 on Monday.
Last Updated: 23/01/12 9:34pm
A goal in each half was enough to see Tunisia go joint top of Group C as they saw off North African rivals Morocco 2-1 on Monday evening.
The Lions of Atlas looked the brighter of the two sides in the opening exchanges, but it was the Carthage Eagles who created the first real chance as Bilel Ifa got on the end of a corner to direct the ball goalwards. But Aymen Mathlouthi was able to make a good save.
The Moroccans had a golden chance to open the scoring 11 minutes in as Marouane Chamakh was played clean through on goal, but the Arsenal striker could only hit the ball straight at the goalkeeper, who made a grateful save.
Aymen Mathlouthi proved himself the difference between these sides in the opening quarter of the game as the goalkeeper produced another fine save to deny Mbark Boussoufa after he had been slipped in behind the Tunisian defence.
Just after the half-hour mark, Tunisia took the lead as Mehdi Benatia cynically brought down a rampaging Zouhair Dhaouadi.
The resulting free-kick was floated in at the far post by Khaled Korbi, and the ball managed to evade everyone before slipping past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Morocco coach Eric Gerets looked to change things up at half-time with the introduction of Adel Taarabt, and the QPR playmaker almost made an instant impact, firing just wide of the mark from inside the area.
The Lions of the Atlas started the second half the same way they did the first and enjoyed plenty of possession, but they were almost caught out by a lightning quick counter-attack led by Saber Khlifa.
The Moroccans continued to probe and Hadji almost grabbed a sensational equaliser, latching on to a glorious pass from the defence, showing sublime skill to loop the ball up over his marker, but the striker could not keep his shot down and curled wide from just a few yards out.
With just 14 minutes left, though, Tunisia landed the knockout punch, with substitute Youssef Msakni dancing his way past two defenders before slamming a low drive into the back of the net via a slight deflection.
Morocco did manage to grab a goal late on, albeit in controversial circumstances as a ball to the far post was played back into the area from an offside position, but the referee's assistant's flag stayed down and Houcine Kharjah was able to bundle the ball into the back of the net.
However, it would prove only a consolation as the Tunisians managed to hold out for the invaluable win, which takes them level with co-hosts Gabon, who saw off Niger by the same score line in Monday's earlier Group C fixture.