Malawi overcame a two-goal deficit and playing the second half a man short to hold Tunisia 2-2 in a 2012 African Nations Cup thriller this weekend.
A couple of first-half goals from Issam Jemaa put the Carthage Eagles in control at the 60,000-seat National Stadium on the outskirts of Tunis before Malawi’s Hellings Mwakasungula was sent off.
But the Flames refused to be extinguished in the Group K clash with Chiukepo Msowoya reducing arrears in first-half stoppage time and Esau Kanyenda slotting home a penalty eight minutes from full-time.
It was an unexpected point for the Central African country whose last visit to Tunisia ended in a 7-0 drubbing after sleeping on the floor of the Malawian embassy in Cairo en route.
Tunisia, expected to lord a mini-league that includes Botswana, Togo and Chad, have made a disastrous start under new French coach Bertrand Marchand, collecing only four of a possible nine points.
The North Africans, who hosted and won the 2004 Nations Cup, lost at home to Botswana in the opening round before recovering to defeat Chad in N’Djamena and must be grateful that they are in the only pool offering two finals places.
Botswana, the highest ranked country in Africa never to play at the biennial tournament, triumphed 2-1 at home to Togo and have 10 points followed by Tunisia (four), Malawi (three), Togo (two) and Chad (one).
Another North African giant who failed to take maximum advantage of playing at home were Morocco as they drew 0-0 in Rabat with featherweights Central African Republic.
“We are demanding good results from you,” was the blunt pre-match message 72-year-old French coach Jules Accorsi was given by officials from the Central African country who rarely compete at international level.
Morocco, under the guidance of French coach Dominique Cuperly because Belgian Eric Gerets will complete his contract with a Saudi club only later this year, wasted the best chance when Youssef al-Arabi had a volley parried.
Gambia are another country never to have appeared at the Nations Cup and they got off to a good start by defeating Namibia 3-1 in Banjul with all the Scorpions goals coming before half-time.
Unmarked Sainey Nyassi headed the opener on 10 minutes and Momodou Ceesay punished a poor Hartman Toromba clearance soon after to put the home team in command.
Another Namibian defensive blunder helped Ousman Jallow snatch the third Gambia goal and the Brave Warriorsa had to wait until the final minute for Wilko Risser to score.
A further nine opening-round matches are being played later Sunday with World Cup quarter-finalists Ghana in Swaziland and defending champions Egypt hosting Sierra Leone.
Gabon and Equatorial Guinea will co-host the 2012 Nations Cup, the first time the tournament has officially been split between two countries since it was first staged 53 years ago in Sudan.
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