The Carthage Eagles of Tunisia and the Copper Bullets of Zambia went into this game knowing that group favourites Cameroon had already been defeated by Gabon and the winner of this game would join the Gabonese as joint leaders. But it was not to be as both ended up drawing in a hard fought match.
The Tunisians coming off a poor World Cup qualifying period when they lost their group ticket on the last day to Nigeria were expected to win. It was the Tunisians that started out on the attack and it was a sign of things to come as has been seen in the tournament so far.
Tunisia striker Amine Chermiti took a fall in the Zambian box but his protests were waved off by the referee. Things were to turn around as Tunisia came under a lot of pressure from the Zambians afterwards as their backline was stretched by the long balls from the Zambian midfield.
The Copper Bullets were the first to settle down to a passing a game as they ran the ball down the field confidently while the Carthage Eagles were made to defend. The Zambians utilised long throw-ins to destabilize the Tunisian defence but were unsuccessful in breaking down the resolve of the north Africans.
Zambia finally took the lead in the 18th minute courtesy of Jacob Mulenga who fired a low shot past Tunisia goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi after a brilliant pass from strike partner James Chamanga.
The Tunisians were quick off the starting blocks and almost equalized on the restart but were stopped by goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene. The Tunisians looked jaded and tried to get their act together but it was the Zambians who went back on the attack sending long balls into the box.
The sluggish Tunisian attack was perennially stopped in the Zambian area almost with ease. Yousef Msakni finally sent a high ball over the Zambian goal in an increasingly frustrating attempt to break down the Zambian resolve.
As the clock ran down in the first half, Zambia looked the more purposeful side as they took the ball into the box of the Zambians at will. They got two quick corners and almost converted the second one as the Tunisians struggled to deal with it.
Against the run of play, midfielder Souheil Dhaouadi scored an equalizer in the 40th minute for the Tunisians, a shot into the roof of the net in the six yard box after a brilliant move down the left from Msakni.
The Tunisians looked to have regained new life as the pace of the match quickened. The Zambians who had controlled the game for long periods of the match now had little energy going forward.
The first half ended 1-1 with a lot of promise of attacking football in the second.
Tunisia came out smoking in the second half as they hit a thirty metre shot that beat Mweene but came off the upright. The rebound was called offside and the Zambians escaped going behind early in the second period.
Mweene had more to do three minutes later as he used his leg to stop a close shot from Dhaouadi. The Zambians are pushed back by the increasingly confident Tunisian attack even as they try to go forward.
The Zambians finally start connecting upfront again causing some headaches for the Tunisian defence. They seem more promising now as they kick into life with the exposed Tunisia defence not able to stop them.
Two chances come begging but they are unable to convert them. Rainford Kalaba hits a free kick on the edge of the box into the Tunisian wall as the Zambians looked for a winner going into the last ten minutes of the game.
In the 83rd minute Mulenga knocked a shot into the upper side netting to scare the Tunisians as the Zambians looked the more likely to get the winner.
A winner seemed to have come a minute later when substitute Emmanuel Mayuka hit the ball into the net but he was called for an infringement instead.
Tunisia’s Kaled Korbi ended the game with a shameful dive after a contrived collision with a Zambian player as he rolled on the floor trying to get his opponent sent off.
Another fierce shot from a free kick from Kalaba is punched out in added time by Mathlouthi but Christopher Katongo put his rebound high to deny the Zambians a great finish.
Tunisia then came back hoping to take the game with the last action and win a corner but the referee ends the match before the corner can be taken.
Lolade Adewuyi, Goal.com