Wahbi Khazri’s stunning freekick in the 70th minute earned Tunisia a point against Mali as they came from a goal down to grab a 1-1 draw with Les Aigles in their second Total Africa Cup of Nations Egypt 2019 Group E clash in Suez on Friday evening.
A goalkeeping howler from Hassan Mouez had given Mali the lead on the hour mark before Khazri led from the front with a brilliant set-piece 10 minutes later to earn Tunisia the point.
With the result, Mali remained top of the group with four points and are one foot into the round of 16 while Tunisia have picked only their second point after drawing their opening game as well, against Angola.
Alain Giresse’s men have to win their last group game against Mauritania next Tuesday while the young Malian squad just need a point against Angola to assure themselves of a last 16 place.
Giresse had made goalkeeping changes after Farouk Ben Mustapha’s howler in their first game against Angola saw them drop points, but it seemed the problem was generic. In an attempt to pick out a corner from Diadie Semassekou, the shot stopper’s butter-fingers instead pushed the ball into his own net to give Mali the lead.
The West Africans had grown into the game after Tunisia had dictated most of the early proceedings with Khazri the main act in attack for the North Africans. As early as the fourth minute, Khazri had already fired some warning shots with his well curled freekick striking the crossbar.
Khazri had a chance again in the sixth minute, this time noticing the Malian keeper Djigui Diarra yards off his line. He tried to pick him out with a long range shot but the keeper backtracked to punch the ball away for a corner.
The Tunisia skipper had another scoring opportunity in the 32nd minute but his shot from the edge of the box after Mali were caught in transition slid just wide.
Mali had grown into the game towards the end of the half, but were yet to get in a dangerous ball past the keeper. In the second half, they kept the chase and got their reward on the hour mark, much thanks to a Christmas gift by the keeper.
Immediately, Giresse was prompted into a change bringing on Youssef Msakni for Anice Badri. They earned their point in the 70th minute, pushed on for a possible winner but came short.
Bottom placed Mauritania will face Angola in the other match in the group on Saturday afternoon.
Total Man of the match: Moussa Marega (Mali)