Tunisia on Tuesday crushed Mauritania 5-1 in their FIFA Arab Cup opener at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. Tunisia, ranked 29 in the FIFA rankings, were slow to get off the blocks in the Group B opener but late in the first half racked up three quick goals to lay the foundation for a strong performance.
Seifeddine Jaziri (39th minute and 45 + 3 minute), Mohamed Ben Arbi (42nd minute and 51st minute) struck a brace each, with Qatar-based Youssef Msakni (90 + 1 minute) also found the net for Tunisia. For Mauritania, the only goal was scored by Moulaye Ahmed El Khalil in injury time (45 + 10) on a penalty.
Coached by Mondher El Kabir, Tunisia now have posted their fifth win over Mauritania in eight fixtures. The last time Tunisia and Mauritania met, the match on Oct 10 ended in a goalless draw. Tunisia have arrived for the Arab Cup following wins over Equatorial Guinea, Zambia and Mauritania in World Cup Qatar qualifiers.
On the other hand, Mauritania have struggled in the recent past following four losses and two draws in the World Cup qualifying phase. Their last victory was posted five months ago (June 22) when they beat Yemen 2-0 to qualify for the Arab Cup.
Yesterday, the Tunisian team attempted to impose its superiority in the match from the first whistle and built momentum with each passing minute. In the 15th minute, a header from Fakhr El-Din Ben Youssef bounced off the Mauritanian crossbar. Tunisia continued its offensive attempts and came close to scoring again when Jaziri hit a powerful shot from inside the penalty area, which was blocked by the Mauritanian goalkeeper at the half-hour mark.
In an attempt to rattle the opponents, the Mauritanian team waved off its defensive mindset and moved forward through Hamia El-Tanji, who almost scored when his deflection from close range hit a goalpost in the 36th minute.
In the 38th minute, Tunisia went 1-0 up when Jaziri, after receiving a cross from Hannibal al-Majbri, fired a shot in the goal from outside the box.
Tunisia did not wait long for their second goal as Ben Arbi made the most of a defensive error from Mauritania. Ben Arbi hit a fine shot with his left foot.
Jaziri scored the third goal for Tunisia when he received a perfect headed cross from Ben Youssef. Jaziri headed the ball towards keeper but the rebound fell back to him against an back-heeled for his second goal.
Just before the teams went into break, Mauritania won a penalty kick following a VAR review. Bessam produced a smartly-taken penalty kick to trick keeper Ben Mustapha to reduce the deficit in the 10th minute of injury time.
In the second half, Ben Arbi scored his second goal as he pounched on rebound in his one-on-one with Mauritania keeper to increase the lead to 4-1 in the 51st minute. The rhythm of the game relatively calmed down after the fourth goal and the real opportunities were absent until substitute Yassine Chikhaoui almost boosted the Tunisian team’s goal-scoring result by attacking the Mauritanian goalkeeper who, however, succeeded in blocking his shot in the 84th minute.
With the return of the Tunisian danger in the last minutes of the match, goal-poacher Msakni – who walked in the 70th minute - added the fifth goal after a cross pass from Chikhaoui in the 90th minute.
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