Algeria’s forward Islam Slimani (left), fights for the ball with Tunisia’s defender Aymen Abdennour (right), during their 2013 Africa Cup of Nations football match at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg on Jan 22. (AFP)
Little Mozart’s late score lifts Tunisia past Algeria ‘Boring Cup of Nations Group D match’

 RUSTENBURG, South Africa, Jan 22, (AFP): Youssef Msakni struck in the final minute to hand Tunisia a 1-0 win over Algeria in a scrappy Maghreb derby here on Monday.
Msakni, a recent signing for Qatar club Lakhouya, lived up to his nickname of the ‘Little Mozart’ with a superb strike to settle a game that had otherwise failed miserably to justify its billing as one of the headline ties of the opening round.
The North African neighbours, both former champions, were meeting for the first time in the 56-year Africa Cup of Nations.
And Maghreb upped sticks for the night to the other end of the continent, well at least 1,000 Algerian and several hundred Tunisian fans who made the long trip south.
Despite the 42,000-capacity Royal Bafokeng stadium being only a quarter full, the atmosphere was charged.
Tunisia suffered an early blow when Kuwait-based striker Issam Jemaa had to come off with a left thigh injury after earlier clashing with Essaid Belkalem. Hamdi Harbaoui took his place.
On 29 minutes, Algeria had the first chance worthy of the name when Sofiane Feghouli’s inch-perfect cross found lone out-and-out forward Islam Slimani and his header rattled Moez Ben Cherifia’s bar.
Tunisia caught Algeria hopping on a counter-attack near the interval, French Ligue 1 striker Saber Khalifa racing into the box only to see his rising shot blasting off Rais Mbolhi’s outstretched palms.
The half-time entertainment, four girls and the competition’s fluffy mascot dancing, was more attention-grabbing than the turgid 45 minutes dished up on the pitch.
Tunisia coach Sami Trabelsi made one switch of personnel at the break, bringing on midfielder Oussama Darragi for Mejdi Traoui.
Northern Irish band D Ream had a huge hit with ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ in the 1990s, but as far as this game was concerned they got worse, until a cracking shot from Algeria’s Nottingham Forest midfielder Adlane Guedioura flew just too high.
At the other end, Harbaoui was narrowly off target with a close-range effort.
The game badly needed a goal, and it duly came with Msakni curling a peach of a shot in from the outside of the box, the ball thudding into the top corner of the stunned Mbolhi’s net. Msakni’s late moment of magic lifted Tunisia to second in Group D behind Ivory Coast, 2-1 winners over Togo earlier.
Meanwhile, Katlego Mphela is called ‘Killer’, but the striker will be hoping to breathe life into the stuttering South Africa Cup of Nations campaign against Angola Wednesday.
Bafana Bafana (The Boys) performed woefully in a goalless tournament-opening Group A game against debutants Cape Verde last Saturday with the team from a group of 10 tiny west-coast islands missing the best scoring chance.
The scoreline emphasised the biggest of many headaches facing silver-haired 56-year-old South Africa coach Gordon Igesund — the inability of his team to put the ball in the net.
Since Max Mahlangu converted a 75th-minute penalty in a 3-1 warm-up win over Malawi in Durban on December 22, South Africa have gone 285 minutes without scoring against Norway and Algeria in warm-ups and Cape Verde.
The drought is threatening to derail the Bafana Bafana title challenge and leave them in danger of becoming the first hosts since Tunisia 19 years ago not to make the knockout stage.
Mphela from Pretoria club Mamelodi Sundowns has averaged a goal every couple of games for the national team, but long-term injuries have curtailed his international career.
He came on as a second-half substitute against Cape Verde in place of ineffective Lehlohonolo Majoro and is expected to make the starting line-up for the crucial match against Angola in Indian Ocean city Durban.
“To come on as a substitute was difficult for me, but I think our boys were nervous against Cape Verde and did not create enough chances,” he said ahead of a clash set to attract a sell-out 60,000 crowd to Moses Mabhida Stadium.
“We score as a team and everyone needs to come to the party and get goals. That is how we will win the competition again,” Mphela said, referring to the 1996 Cup of Nations triumph of then-debutants South Africa.
The 28-year-old, 1.82-metre striker said the squad had to match the patience and composure shown by Mali, who took 84 minutes before Seydou Keita scored the goal that earned a 1-0 win over hyper-cautious Niger in Group B last Sunday.
“Mali kept on going and eventually scored — that is what we need to do against Angola. If we keep on working hard, the goals will come,” was the assurance from Mphela.
Bafana Bafana and the Black Antelopes have met three times in the Cup of Nations with South Africa winning 1-0 at home in 1996 while the other two games in Burkina Faso and Ghana were drawn.

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