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2015 African Nations Cup, Quarter-finals
  • Ahmed Akaïchi (70')
  • Javier Balboa (90'+3' PEN, 102')

Hosts Equatorial Guinea reach ANC semis with help of late penalty decision

Javier Balboa was the hero for Equatorial Guinea as his curling extra-time free-kick sealed their place in the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup with a dramatic 2-1 win over Tunisia.

Balboa had sent the match into extra time after he scored a controversial penalty which was awarded to the tournament hosts in the last minute of normal time after Ivan Bolado appeared to have dived in the box.

The amazing turnaround came after Ahmed Akaichi broke the deadlock in the 70th minute to put Tunisia 1-0 up and they looked on course to qualify until Balboa scored arguably the two most important goals to date for his country.

Tunisia had given the host nation an early scare when left-back Ali Maaloul ran down the wing and sent in a dangerous cross to Yasine Chikhaoui, which Sipo did well to clear from beneath his crossbar.

Equatorial Guinea settled into the match after that, although goalkeeper Felipe Ovono went down and needed treatment in the 18th minute after he failed to claim a ball from Wahbi Khazri's inswinging corner.

Ovono was back on his feet shortly after as Tunisia started to exert some pressure, although Khazri's long-range shot in the 29th minute was well wide of the target.

Ferjani Sassi went close to scoring the opener after a good run saw him get onto the end of a ball in while simultaneously splitting the National Thunder defence in the 30th minute, but the Metz midfielder headed wide.

That was the best chance of the half and Tunisia, who won their first African title on home soil in 2004, then forced a terrific save from Ovono early in the first half when Akaichi sent a powerful shot from Chikhaoui's ball in, leaving the Equatorial Guinea keeper to punch the ball over the crossbar.

Hamza Mathlouthi tried his luck with a low 25-yard strike which Ovono fumbled, tempting Akaichi to slide in on him, only to earn a yellow card for his efforts.

The Tunisia striker was not overly concerned four minutes later, though, when he made the perfect run to bounce the ball past Ovono to score his third goal of the tournament from Mathlouthi's cross.

A brief melee broke out when Chikhaoui and Equatorial Guinea striker Ivan Edu clashed before a great piece of goalkeeping by Mathlouthi kept out Emilio Nsue with 10 minutes left.

However, bigger drama was to come when the hosts were awarded a controversial penalty in the last minute.

Bolado dribbled into the area and fell under a nothing challenge from Ali Maaloul, and the referee did not hesitate in pointing to the spot. Balboa stepped up to take the spot kick, and Tunisia goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi, with lasers shining in his eyes courtesy of the partisan home crowd, dived the wrong way as the game went into extra time.

The Estoril striker then broke Tunisian hearts when he launched a curling free-kick from 25 yards which put his side ahead for the first time in the match.

Ovono then denied Maaloul from a free-kick from similar range in the second period of extra time, then went down injured again as the tension increased further.

The referee lost control of the match as scuffles broke out between the two benches, but then quickly blew the final whistle to confirm Equatorial Guinea's progression to the final four.

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