Togo booked its place in the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time after battling for a 1-1 draw in a controversial encounter with Tunisia in Nelspruit.
By
PA Sport

Source:
PA Sport
31 Jan 2013 - 7:57 AM  UPDATED 4 Feb 2013 - 3:07 PM

English-born South African referee Daniel Bennett took centre stage in a contest that saw two soft penalties awarded to Tunisia as Togo twice saw strong spot-kick claims for turned down.

Khaled Mouelhi went from hero to villain for Tunisia, scoring its goal from the penalty spot in the 30th minute to cancel out Serge Gakpe's opener, only to hit the post when gifted another opportunity from 12 yards after the break.

Togo was incensed by the referee's decisions and will feel justice was done, with the point sufficient for it to book a meeting with Burkina Faso in the last eight.

Togo, which came into the final round of Group D matches on level with Tunisia on three points after defeat to Cote d'Ivoire in its opening game was followed by a 2-0 win over Algeria, took the lead in the 13th minute.

Emmanuel Adebayor created the goal, the Tottenham Hotspur attacker running unchallenged from halfway and slotting the ball behind the defence for Gakpe who finished first time into the right corner.

Tunisia equalised from a penalty awarded just before the half-hour when Dare Nibombe was harshly ruled to have pulled down Walid Hichri as they challenged at a corner, and Mouelhi stepped up confidently to dispatch the spot-kick.

Togo had its first penalty appeal turned down when Adebayor got in behind the defence in the 58th minute and went down under under the challenge of Hichri, who got nothing of the ball.

And with 20 minutes remaining Adebayor was brought down in the area by Tunisia goalkeeper Ben Cherifa but again referee Bennett was unmoved.

Togo's exasperation peaked with 12 minutes remaining as Saber Khelifa ran in behind Nibombe and went to ground under minimal contact, with three Togo players - Jonathan Ayite, Adebayor and goalkeeper Kossi Agassa - booked for their reactions to the decision to award a penalty.

However, justice was served, in Togo's eyes at least, when Mouelhi tried to put his penalty in the opposite corner to his first but saw the ball come back off the post.

Tunisia might still have won it had Fakhreddine Ben Youssef managed to turn the ball home from almost on the goal line after a scramble in the final minute, but Agassa made an instinctive save with his feet to seal Togo's passage to the last eight.