Tunisia 1–0 Kenya: Carthage Eagles Keep Group Leadership In Narrow Win
Tunisia earned an ideal start as they got off the mark in the first minute of the match through Issam Jemaa to bring celebrations to an early start at the 7th of November Stadium off an Ousemma Darrragi cross. The scenario was almost an identical one to when Haykel Guemamdia did the same against the Harambee Stars when Tunisia were on their road to the 2006 World Cup.
The Kenyans did not give in however as they responded with a spell of ball possession that they could not turn into a goal. Nevertheless, their ball movement was far from the style that the locals were expecting form a team missing two of their best players, Dennis Oliech and McDonald Mariga.
In the minutes after the goal it was the Kenyans who took the initiative as they pushed forward to equalize but the final pass was sorely lacking.
The Harambee Stars earned their first corner of the match in the 11th minute but failed when they played it short to surprise the Tunisian defense. Kenya continued their attacks and created quite a few opportunities including their second corner kick but the resultant header was off target.
Issam Jemaa did his best to lift his team and his ball pressure allowed him to recover the ball from an opposing defender and to earn Tunisia’s first free kick of the encounter.
Still, Tunisia were struggling to find any fluency to their game until the 23rd minute when an intelligent Darragi pass split the Harambee Stars defense but Mikari’s cross was deflected out of touch. A quick throw in the 26th minute gave Kenya another chance but Mikari intervened at the the crucial moment to clear the ball.
Three minutes later, Darragi was the once again in the thick of things for the Tunisian attack as he found Chaouki Ben Saada in the box unmarked but the Nice midfielder missed with a defender closing in on him.
Patrick Osiako tried his luck from distance in the 36th minute but his powerful shot was too close to Carthage Eagles goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi who found no trouble gathering it.
Nabil Taider swung a dangerous cross in the 38th minute which was slightly too high for Jemaa who claimed he had been pushed in the box. The Tunisians lifted their level slightly towards the end of the first half after losing a sense of urgency due to their early taken lead.
Antoine Hey made his first substitution by taking out defender Julius Owino for striker Taiwo Atieno as he knew that a loss would rule his team out of a place in the upcoming African Cup of Nations.
The second half began with Humberto Coleho inserting Fahid Ben Khalfallah in Taider’s place and the Valenciennes player got right into the match as he started an attack and nearly finished it himself after a poor Kenyan clearance but his strike narrowly missed the target.
The change brought more balance to the Tunisian midfield as they took control of the ball yet they still couldn’t add a second to kill the match.
Coelho took out Darragi in the 76th minute to give Sofian Chahed his first minutes in Tunisian colors to the ire of the crowd that wanted to see more from their playmaker.
The Carthage Eagles hung onto their victory after some nervy moments near the end of the game and thus stay in the drivers seat before their last match against Mozambique in Maputo next month.