• AFCON quarters: Ghana edge Tunisia, Mali knock out co-host Gabon

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  • Mali beat Gabon 5-4 on penalties in their quarter final clash.(Photo:CAF)Mali beat Gabon 5-4 on penalties in their quarter final clash.(Photo:CAF)
Feb 06, 2012-

Tournament co-favourites Ghana are still on course for dream final after the Black Stars beat Tunisia 2-1 after extra time to book a semi-final clash with Zambia on Wednesday.

At the match in Franceville , Gabon, Ghana drew first blood courtesy of returning captain John Mensah’ second goal of the tournament ten minutes unto the match.

In similar fashion to his first goal against Botswana during the his side’s opening match, Mensah reacted quickest in the box from a corner kick and headed past Aymen Mathlouthi . Tunisian coach Sami Trabelsi brought back into the side amongst others goalkeeper Mathlouthi and captain Karim Hagui.

Ghana dominated the early exchanges and bossed the midfield with Dede Auew Emmanuel Badu and Muntari lively. Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan sent a shot just wide of Mathlouthi’s goal while a rocket of a shot from Badu sailed centimeters off the upright during a period the Black Stars were on top.

Tunisia did look dangerous though whenever Yousef Msakni was on the ball. In the 42nd minute very much against the run of play Tunisia found the equalizer through Sabeur Khalifa.

The tall striker headed past Larsen Kwarasey after Ghana had failed to clear a high bal from a couple of attempts. Dhaoudi ‘s chip was too high for defender Samuel Inkoom at the far post but Khalifa attacked the ball from close range and knocked in an equaliser.

A few minutes into the second half Ghana was forced to make a change as captain John Mensah went down under a challenge to be replaced by Isaac Vorsah. Both teams stepped up play with chances opening up at both ends.

In the first period of extra time Tunisia aided by fresh substitutes pressurized the Ghanaian defence sensing the momentum was with them.

Ghana broke at the other end and the Black Stars could not believe their luck when the outstanding goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi gifted them a goal.

Mathlouthi went up to collect a cross and seemed to have the ball gathered but as he came down he dropped it at Andrea Ayew’s feet and the midfielder gladly accepted the gift and scored Ghana’s second goal.

Ghana hung on for victory and now head to Bata Equatorial Guinea where they meet Zambia in the semi-final on Wednesday.

Mali sent co-hosts Gabon packing out of the competition after beating them 5-4 on penalties in their quarter final clash. The Malians came from behind to hold the Eagles to a 1-1 draw of the tie that failed to produce a winner after 120 minutes.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the star of the Gabonese team turned villain as he failed to score from the spot whilst veteran Seydou Keita netted the decisive kick as the Eagles soared into the last four of the tournament.

The Panthers were cruising to victory after Eric Mouloungui shot them into the lead on 55 minutes only for substitute Cheick Tidiane Diabate to draw level six minutes from time.

During penalties, Diabate, Mustapha Yatabare, Cedric Kante, Bakaye Traore and Keita scored for the Malians whilst Andre Biyogo, Bruno Mbanangoye, Mouloungi and Bruno Ecuele Manga found target for the Gabonese.

It marked the first time since 2004 that Mali had reached the medal zone where they are due to face Ivory Coast next Wednesday at the same venue.

Gabon joined fellow co-hosts Equatorial Guinea in bidding farewell to the competition but it was a painful scene for the former who were five minutes away from playing at the last four of the tournament.