Controversial penalty helps Eq. Guinea reach first Nations Cup semi-final

Equatorial Guinea's Javier Balboa, right, celebrates his goal with teammate Ivan Edu Salvador, left, during their African Cup of Nations quarter final soccer match against Tunisia (Photo: AP)
Sunday 1 Feb 2015
Host Equatorial Guinea benefited from a hotly disputed penalty in the last minute of normal time to go on and beat Tunisia 2-1 in extra time in the African Cup quarterfinals on Saturday.


Mauritian referee Rajindraparsad Seechurn ruled that Ivan Bolado was fouled in the 90th minute with Equatorial Guinea trailing 1-0, and on the way out of its home tournament.

Javier Balboa scored from the spot-kick deep in stoppage time, and curled in a brilliant free kick in the first half of extra time to send Equatorial Guinea to the semifinals for the first time.

The penalty was the turning point, and Seechurn's highly contentious decision sparked fury from Tunisian players, and the coaching staff on the sidelines. There were ugly confrontations between both camps near the dugouts after the decision, and riot police even moved in to restore order.

At the final whistle, there was more trouble, when the sides clashed again near the dugouts, and Seechurn was surrounded by furious Tunisian players, and then chased by them across the field and down the tunnel as riot police and yellow-jacketed security officials tried to escort him away safely.

Tunisia silenced the 35,000 fanatic home fans in the 70th minute when Ahmed Akaichi flicked in at the near post after a perfect first-time cross by Hamza Mathlouthi for a 1-0 lead.

Mathlouthi was the Tunisian to give away the penalty at the death, though, when Seechurn decided he tripped Bolado. It appeared to be the wrong decision.

The angered Tunisians surrounded the referee, and on the sidelines both teams' coaches approached each other and shouted angrily. Players also had to be pushed apart by officials as they jostled.

Bottles were thrown in the direction of both teams' dugouts, as the crowd roared and stamped its feet on the metal floors of Bata Stadium, and it took minutes for calm to be restored. Riot police with helmets and shields moved over to the trouble.

Balboa kept his head to sweep the penalty into the bottom left corner. He then swept a free kick into the top right in the 12th minute of extra to send the crowd into celebration.

Equatorial Guinea will play the winner of Sunday's quarterfinal between Ghana and Guinea.

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