Ghana’s Black Stars crashed out of the Africa Cup of Nations after losing 4-5 on penalties to Tunisia in their Round of 16 encounter in Ismailia last night, ending another failed campaign to win the continental title for the fifth time.
It took the lottery of penalties to separate the two sides who were tied 1-1 after 120 minutes of exchanges, with Ghana’s Caleb Ekuban fluffing his kick, while the Tunisians converted all their five kicks to progress to the quarterfinals to play against surprise side Madagascar.
Ghana were three minutes away from being shown the exit in regulation time when they were gifted with an equaliser through an own goal to cancel a 69th minute lead by Tunisia through a strike by substitute Wahbi Khazei who connected Wajdi Kechrida’s volley in the box to break the deadlock .
Ghana however fought gallantly and pulled level in the 90th minute when in an attempt to head the ball away substitute Rami Bedoui found his header beating his goalkeeper Hassen Mouez to pull level for Ghana
Moments after the game started, the Carthage Eagles took early control as they pinned the Black Stars to their own half with good ball control, possession and short passes hoping to find an early goal.
But Baba Rahman, Nuhu Kasim, and John Boye who manned the defence however contained the Tunisians to deny them any opportunity.
With a strong midfield built around Thomas Partey, Afriyie Acquah, Andre Ayew and Mubarak Wakaso, the Ghanaians gradually warmed themselves into the game from the sixth minute as they took the game to their opponents and earned their first corner in the seventh minute.
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Kwasi Appiah’s side continued to probe for goals but Ellyes Skhiri, Ferjani Sassi, Dylan Bronn and Wajdi Kechrida formed a barrier in defence for Tunisia to ward off all attacks from the Ayew brothers, Andre and Jordan.
In the 15th minute the Black Stars earned their third corner which was floated by Mubarak wakaso but a quick connection of Nuhu Kasim’s header hit the post to the relief of the Tunisians
A quick counter by the Tunisians in the 20th minute almost resulted in a goal but Partey, who had fallen deeply in defence, prevented Badri Anice from breaking the deadlock
The two sides continued to make forays into each others territory with the Ghanaians slightly on top, and in one of their attacks, Andre Ayew hit the back of the net but South African referee Victor Gomez disallowed what looked a perfect goal as he ruled it a hand ball by Partey
Back from recess, the trend of the game changed when Khazri was introduced into the game . His combination with Kechrida yielded dividend when the former opened the scoring for his side in the 69th minute.
The Stars responded and came close in the 78th minute but Jordan, who was given a through pass in the Tunisian box, shot wide.
The trend continued until Ekuban and Asamoah Gyan were introduced into the game to reinforce Ghana’s attack, and it was one of their attacks that a free kick by Wakaso intended for Gyan was misdirected by his marker, Rami Bedoui, who headed the ball into his own net for a welcome equaliser which threw the game into 30-minute extra time.
However, the Tunisians held their nerve in the tie-breaking shootout to advance to end Ghana’s dominance over them in AFCON history and advance to the next stage of the competition.