The Carthage Eagles are top of Group B of 2014 World Cup qualifying after a hard-fought 2-1 win away to a stubborn Cape Verde side that made things very difficult for the visitors
An early goal from Saber Khelifa and another in the opening minute of the second half from Issam Jemaa allowed Tunisia to overcome a failed comeback attempt by the Blue Sharks at the Estadio de Varzea in Praia during 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
Cape Verde began the match pressing high up the pitch in a bid to force Tunisia out of their trademark shot passing game but the experienced north Africans didn’t appear all too rattled by the tactic. Nevertheless, the home side did have a penalty appeal turned down on five minutes when Jemaa handled in the box.
Tunisia’s top scorer was at the centre of things once more shortly thereafter, just missing the target with a shot from distance. Despite not having played their best football, the Carthage Eagles took the lead on 13 minutes when Anis Ben Hatira found Khelifa with a pinpoint through ball that split the Cape Verdes defence.
Instead of folding, Lucio Antunes men reacted positively to going behind and began creating problems for the Tunisian backline with long balls towards their tall forwards. The tactic paid dividends on 26 minutes when Odair Fortes took advantage of an Aymen Mathlouthi mistake to score a much-sought equaliser.
In the second half, Cape Verde began pressing once more but their backline was quickly caught napping by an intelligent Hamdi Harbaoui pass for Jemaa who made no mistake with only the keeper to beat. The Auxerre player’s finish gave Tunisia more confidence and they could have doubled their lead if not for a last ditch save from Ernesto on a Wissem Ben Yahia effort.
Facing the prospect of losing their first match at home in four years, the islanders responded with attacks of their own, primarily through substitutes Ryan Mendes and Jorge Semedo who had a point-blank shot parried by Mathlouthi on 67 minutes. Meanwhile, a now counter-attacking Tunisia failed to convert countless opportunities on the other end.
Play opened up considerably in the later stages of the match and Tunisia managed to hold on to a huge away win. The result Sam Trabelsi’s side sole leadership of their group as they are now two points ahead of Sierra Leone who drew 2-2 in Malabo.