Ismailia/Suez: Tunisia defeated Ghana 5-4 on penalties Monday with Ferjani Sassi converting the decisive spot-kick to end a 54-year Africa Cup of Nations losing streak against the Black Stars.
After a 1-1 draw following extra time in Ismailia, Tunisia scored from all five penalties while Ghana substitute Caleb Ekusan had his attempt saved by Farouk Ben Mustapha, who came off the bench especially for the shootout.
Victory was sweet for Tunisia as they had lost six times to Ghana in the African football showcase from 1965 after drawing the first meeting between the nations two years earlier.
On Thursday, the Carthage Eagles play giantkillers Madagascar in a quarter-final in Cairo with the winners meeting Senegal or Benin for a place in the July 19 final.Losing on penalties ended a Ghana run of six consecutive top-four finishes in the Cup of Nations and puts the future of coach Kwesi Appiah in doubt.
Four-time former champions Ghana changed two of the team that began a 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau that enabled them to pip Cameroon for top spot in Group F on goals scored.
Both alterations were on the left side of a 4-3-3 formation with defender Nuhu Kasim and midfielder Afriyie Acquah replacing Joseph Aidoo and Owusu Kwabena.
Tunisia coach and 1980s France star Alain Giresse reacted to an embarrassing 0-0 draw with minnows Mauritania in their previous match by dropping four of the team.
A big surprise was the exclusion of forward Wahbi Khazri, who had been the outstanding Tunisian attacker in the group phase and scored one of their two goals.
Bassem Srarfi, Naim Sliti and Karim Aouadhi were also relegated to the bench with Ghaylen Chaalali, Ferjani Sassi, Taha Yassine Khenissi and Anice Badri promoted.
After early yellow cards for Ghanaian John Boye, the first player to be red-carded in the group phase, and Tunisian Dylan Bronn, the first half became a cagey, even affair.
Ghana came close to scoring on 16 minutes when a Kasim header struck the post and Andre Ayew fired the rebound straight at goalkeeper Hassen Mouez.
Andre Ayew was convinced he had put the Black Stars ahead on 41 minutes when he backheeled a cross into the net, but the referee ruled that Thomas Partey handled in the build-up.
Replays showed the ball touching the chin of the Atletico Madrid midfielder rather than a hand and the disallowed goal infuriated the Ghanaians.
Midway through the second half Giresse had second thoughts about the composition of his attack, which was making little impression, and sent on Khazri in place of Badri.
Khazri needed just five minutes to make an impact with his brilliant backheel creating space for Wajdi Kechrida to cross and Khenissi scored with a shot that went in off the near post.
The woodwork foiled Ghana a second time when a Mubarak Wakaso shot from outside the box struck the far post 10 minutes from the end of regular time with Mouez beaten.
In the first minute of stoppage time, the Blacks Stars drew level with an attempted headed clearance by Bedoui looped over Mouez, who had strayed off his line.
ZAHA SCORES FOR IVORY COAST
Wilfried Zaha grabbed the only goal to settle a disappointing Africa Cup of Nations last-16 clash as Ivory Coast beat Mali 1-0 in Suez on Monday.
Crystal Palace winger Zaha ensured the Ivorians remained unbeaten against Mali at the tournament as he squeezed home on 76 minutes to book a quarter-final showdown with Algeria.
However, the 2015 champions will need to perform much better if they aspire to a second title in four years as Ivory Coast's talented attack of Zaha, Nicolas Pepe and Jonathan Kodjia largely failed to fire.
"We're going to enjoy our victory, it wasn't easy against a good Mali team," said Ivory Coast boss Ibrahim Kamara.
"We had a pretty difficult first half where we couldn't get it going. We let the storm pass and were able to make the most of our key moments."
The in-demand Pepe returned for the Elephants after sitting out the 4-1 win over Namibia along with Kodjia, while Mali recalled a host of regulars having rested key players after qualifying from their group with a game to spare.
Mali advanced as joint top scorers in the group stage with six goals alongside Algeria and had the Ivorians in trouble early here, although Lassana Coulibaly lost his footing after Moussa Marega attempted to square.
Sylvain Gbohouo had a lucky escape when he flapped at a corner with Abdoulay Diaby stabbing over before the Ivory Coast goalkeeper tipped behind his curling free-kick.
Mali were seeking a first victory over their fellow west Africans at the Cup of Nations after three losses and a draw, but Southampton recruit Moussa Djenepo stumbled as he bore in on goal at start of the second half.
Kodjia was denied at the other end as Djigui Diarra turned the Aston Villa forward's shot wide with his legs and an ineffective Pepe was withdrawn on 68 minutes.
Zaha made the breakthrough with a quarter of an hour remaining when Gbohouo's hopeful ball upfield skipped past a static Mali defence all the way through to the Arsenal target who snuck the ball past Diarra.
Adama Traore created a late chance as Mali sought to send the game to extra time but his stinging drive was kept out by Gbohouo.
"We managed the game perfectly and created loads of chances but lacked a finisher today," rued Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba.
"It was a bad day for us. The only chance they had they put it away. I wouldn't even say it was chance, more an opportunist attacker."