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Page last updated at 19:18 GMT, Sunday, 17 January 2010

Gabon 0-0 Tunisia

By Stephen Fottrell

Tunisia's Amine Chemiti (C) rounds Gabon keeper Didier Ovono
Amine Chermiti should have punished sloppy Gabon defending

Gabon moved a step closer to the knock-out stages of the Africa Cup of Nations in a dour but valuable 0-0 draw with Tunisia in a rainy Lubango.

The Panthers remain top of Group D and are in pole position to qualify for the final stages for just the second time.

Both teams created a number of chances in each half but could not provide the decisive final touch to grab a winner.

Tunisia's Amine Chermiti had the best opportunity of the game, but got the ball trapped under his feet in space.

Chermiti almost punished Gabon defender Bruno Ecuele Manga for a short and sloppy backpass, by nipping in and rounding keeper Didier Ovono on the edge of the box, in the 27th minute.

But by the time he got his shot away it was well blocked by a retreating Bruno Ecuele Manga.

Both sides started brightly enough, with Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang seeing his sharp touch in the six-yard box smothered by Tunisian goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi, after a clever cross from captain Daniel Cousin.

Two minutes later Cousin saw a fierce effort of his own fly just over from 30 yards out.

Tunisia had their first real opportunity of the game on the quarter hour when Jomaa broke inside on the left and unleashed a powerful drive from outside the box that went narrowly wide.

Three minutes later, Gabon's Eric Mouloungi and Souhail Ben Radhia saw two swift headers go narrowly wide, the second of which should really have been buried from a corner inside the near post.

Tunisia were far too narrow in the opening period and could not create enough space to get the ball out to the wings.

Ammar Jemel of Tunisia (L) tackles Gabon's Daniel Cousin
Cousin found it difficult to make his mark on the game

Their frustration began to show in the 35th minute, when Ben Radhia was booked for a foul on Stephane Nguema, when he dived in dangerously.

The Tunisian defender was lucky not to get a red, but the yellow, his second of the competition, still earned him a suspension from the Carthage Eagles' final group game.

The Gabonese began to test the uncertain Mathlouthi in the Tunisian goal, and Mouloungi's quick shot on 36 minutes was spilled by the Tunisian keeper, before he quickly gathered.

Both teams began the second half ambitiously and on 49 minutes Nguema should have done better in acres of space but his ballooned shot from distance sailed yards wide.

The game quickly became scrappy, with lots of niggling tackles and dives all over the pitch.

The already-booked Tunisian Souheil Dhaouadi began living dangerously by fouling Gabon's Cedric Mobamba and avoiding punishment.

Minutes later Youssef Msakni earned a free kick on the right with a dive, under close attention from Nguema.

Yassine Mikari whipped the resulting free kick in, which was spilled by Ovono, but Cousin could not get to the follow-up quick enough to put it away before it was cleared.

At the other end, there was more shaky goalkeeping from Mathlouthi, after Manga whipped in a fierce shot, which was parried away.

Fifteen minutes from time, Dhaouadi delivered a great seeking cross, which evaded the entire defence, but Jomaa just could not connect in time as he slid in at speed at the far post.

Cousin could have made his mark on the game in the final minutes, but was first denied a decent penalty shout, and then should have done better with a free header in the dying moments, which told the story of the game.

The players may be within their rights to blame the slippery surface, after heavy rain overnight in Lubango, but there was an overall lack of effort, especially from midfield, which resulted in the end product of a stalemate.

Gabon face Zambia in their final Group D game on Thursday while Tunisia take on Cameroon.

Gabon: Ovono Ebang, Moundounga , Apanga, Ecuele Manga, Ambourouet, N'Guema (Djissikadie 65), Kessany Zategwa, Mbanangoye, Mouloungui (Meye 78), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Cousin.

Subs Not Used: Nguema Bekale, Copa, N'Guema Obane, Akouassaga, Willy Aubameyang, Arsene Do Marcolino, Moubamba, Fabrice Do Marcolino, Issiemou, Moto

Booked: Moundounga , Kessany Zategwa, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Tunisia: Mathlouthi, Ben Radhia, Haggui, Jemal, Mikari, Korbi, Ragued, Dhaouadi (Ali Nafkha 86), Msakni (Ben Saada 62), Jomaa, Chermiti (Akaichi 69)

Subs Not Used: Nefzi, Souissi, Felhi, Darragi, Chemmam, Hammami, Mrabet, Ifa, Ben Mustapha

Booked: Dhaouadi, Ben Radhia.

Att: 16,000

Ref: Codjia Koffi (Benin)

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see also
Zambia 1-1 Tunisia
13 Jan 10 |  African
Cameroon 0-1 Gabon
13 Jan 10 |  African
Africa Cup of Nations photos
12 Jan 10 |  African
Africa Cup of Nations fixtures
07 Jan 10 |  African
Africa Cup of Nations tables
07 Jan 10 |  African

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