Piqueti, Asamoah, Mathlouthi light up Matchday 2
The second round of matches saw Senegal and Ghana book their places in the last eight while Uganda became the first nation to be eliminated from this year’s Africa Cup of Nations. Njabulo Ngidi, who was in Libreville and Port-Gentil, picks his best moments from a round that produced plenty of thrills and spills for the players and fans alike.
The colourful midfielder with a touch of blonde in his mainly black hair announced himself to the continent in style with a brilliant individual goal. The Guinea-Bissauan started the move from his own half, lobbed Collins Fai, forced his way past Georges Mandjeck before twisting and turning Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui. Piqueti’s pace carried him away from defenders before he sweetly struck the ball to give the minnows the lead against Cameroon.
Tunisia’s goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi was just warming up with his acrobatic save to deny Islam Sliman’s welltaken free-kick. Mathlouthi pulled off a spectacular save to deny the Algerian’s header from a goal-bound effort. Ramy Bensebani flicked a corner to an unmarked Sliman in the small box with only the goalkeeper to beat. Tunisia’s captain produced a point-blank save with his quick reflexes in a match that the Carthage Eagles won 2-1.
Asamoah Gyan, who also has a music career, is a born entertainer. His dance moves are famous across the continent because he flashes them after every goal he scores. He got another chance to do that in Port-Gentil after scoring his eighth goal in the tournament’s history. Gyan assembled his teammates to form a line, they whipped out their right arms and bounced forward as if they were riding a horse going through waves. That goal saw Ghana ride into the last eight of the Afcon.
The North African derby, between Tunisia and Algeria, was an entertaining and tense spectacle. But Ghana’s clash with Mali was the standout match of MatchDay 2. It had everything, controversy, quality players and drama. The two teams couldn’t train on the Stade de Port-Gentil pitch because they were preserving it for the match. They used an in-door artificial pitch. Once they entered the pitch, it took a beating as these two nations played with a place in the last eight up for grabs. Somehow they managed to ensure that the poor pitch didn’t rob the fans of an entertaining match.
The Ghanaians animatedly celebrated their passage to the last eight with a game to spare after their 1-0 win over Mali. But in those celebrations, their squad was missing Baba Abdul-Rahman who was forced to return to Germany for medical assessments after he tore his ACL. The Black Stars showed their appreciation of the Schalke defender by dedicating the win to him and flashing t-shirts written, “GET WELL BABA”.
The Mali fans once again take this honour. They are a pleasure to watch with their colourful attire, drums and vocal support. There is a large contingency of Malians who reside in Gabon. It feels like they all cram into Stade de Port-Gentil whenever the Eagles are in town. They were more spectacular in their match against Ghana. The poor state of the pitch forced the players to warm up in-doors in an effort to preserve the pitch. That means the fans had to wait until the match started to see their players. The Mali fans sang loudly as they waited, beating their drums in unison. They are an act that puts the home fans to shame.