Tunisia beat Niger 2-1 to go on the verge of qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals, but were made to work extremely hard after an excellent display by their relatively lowly opponents in a fast-paced, open match. Despite scoring an early goal when Youssef Msakni danced through the heart of Niger's defence to slot in at the far post, Tunisia never looked as though they were in for an easy ride - speedster Moussa Maazou had already gotten free of the defence only for the Niger striker to miss a clean one on one chance, and he was involved in the equaliser four minutes after Msakni opened the scoring.
To say Niger's goal came against the run of play would be understating things, but Tunisia were the ones who shot themselves in the foot. A long ball with crazy spin floated lazily towards Aymen Mathlouthi's box, hanging up invitingly for the goalkeeper to catch, but for some reason Mathlouthi let it bounce and then had his attempt to claim thwarted by Maazou, who slapped the ball* out of the keeper's grasp, allowing it to bounce right onto the head of William N'Gounou, who nodded into an empty net.
*Yes, this is normally called a 'handball'. Ah well.
The goal reinvigorated Niger, who were no doubt deeply amused by the indignation provided by more or less the entire Tunisia team, and they began to look deeply threatening, especially whenever Maazou got involved - he missed twice more with just Mathlouthi to beat (although the second was within a foot of going it) and probably should have been given a penalty when Karim Haggui fouled him in the box.
The two sides exchanged woodwork hits, with Aymen Abdennour rattling Kassaly Daouda's post after Boubacar Issoufou had done the same to Mathlouthi, but it was Niger who looked most threatening in the second half, with Maazou repeatedly thwarted by bad calls by the linesman after making a series of very clever runs.
As so often happens, however, the missed opportunities came back to bite, and hard. With 89 minutes spent, Niger made a mess of things in their own penalty area, allowing substitute Issam Jemaa to hammer home to make it 2-1. Tunisia nearly added undeserved gloss to the scoreline when they rattled the crossbar minutes later, but Jemaa's goal was good enough, and they now find themselves in commanding position to qualify with six points from six.