Gabon were not considered to be contenders for the African Cup of Nations, but they have emerged as surprise candidates for a quarter-final spot. A goalless draw with Tunisia last night, the 2004 champions, added to their opening win against four-times winners Cameroon, has put them on the brink of just their second appearance in the last eight. There was little between the two sides in this Group D encounter at the Nossa Senhora do Monte and a draw was a fair result.
It was a game of little excitement. Tunisia's Hocine Ragued found himself unmarked in the box after three minutes but could not deflect Souheil Dhaouadi's corner goalwards. At the other end, Eric Mouloungui headed wide with a great chance in the 18th minute. The best chance of the first half, though, fell to Tunisia striker Amine Chermiti when Bruno Ecuele Manga made a mess of his back pass. Chermiti, who plays for Al Ittihad in Saudi Arabia, rounded goalkeeper Didier Ovono but could not find the target with the goal at his mercy. Ovono spilt a low free-kick from Yassin Mikari on the hour, but Daniel Cousin, who scored the winner in the first game, hacked it clear.
Tunisia substitute Ahmed Akaichi hit the bar in the 81st minute from close range, although the offside flag was wrongly raised.But neither side could find a winner which would have been barely deserved. Gabon have four points, while Tunisia are stuck on two. Cameroon faced Zambia late last night. The Ghana midfielder, Michael Essien, has been taken to hospital for tests on a knee injury sustained during the African Nations Cup, according to reports in Angola. The Chelsea midfielder, whose build-up to the tournament was hampered by a hamstring problem which also prevented him from starting the 3-1 defeat to Ivory Coast on Friday, is now a serious doubt for the Black Stars' must-win clash against Burkina Faso tomorrow.
"I don't know the extent of the injury but we will find out later," said the Ghana coach, Milovan Rajevac. Essien, 27, trained yesterday morning but failed to complete the session before being taken to a local hospital in an ambulance. Rajevac will be desperate for his star man to recover in time for the game as anything less than a win will see one of the powerhouses of African football make an early exit. Man of the match: Daniel Cousin (Gabon)
* With agencies