Tunisia revived their hopes of reaching the Round of 16 after beating Mauritania 4-0 in an Africa Cup of Nations fixture at Limbe Stadium on Sunday.
It was Hamza Mathlouthi who put them ahead in the sixth minute before captain Wahbi Khazri grabbed a brace in the eighth and 64th minute and Seifeddine Jaziri sealed the emphatic Group F victory with a wonderful effort in the 66th minute.
The Carthage Eagles went into the game without six players - Osama Al-Hadadi, Naim Al-Seliti, Johan Touzghar, Mohammed Drager, Asam Al-Jabali and Dylan Bronn – who had tested positive for Covid-19 a day prior to the fixture, and they knew anything less than a win would thwart their chances of reaching the Round of 16.
Having lost their opening fixture against Mali by a solitary goal and in a controversial manner, Tunisia started the game against the Lions of Chinguetti with urgency and it was not a surprise when they took the deserved lead with only six minutes played.
Mathlouthi combined well with Ellyes Skhiri before unleashing a first-time shot from inside the box that beat Mauritania goalkeeper Babacar Diop and sailed into the bottom left corner.
Tunisia then doubled their lead two minutes later when Khazri hit the back of the net with a wonderful piece of finishing. Khazri made a yard for himself after a well-delivered cross from Saif-Eddine Khaoui and he turned nicely before rifling the ball into the bottom corner.
In the 13th minute, Mauritania almost reduced the deficit when the unmarked Hassan Houbeib received a good cross from Almike N’Diaye but his one-time left-footed effort was punched out to a fruitless corner by goalkeeper Bechir Ben Said.
A minute later, Mauritania were forced to make an early substitution as Mouhamed Soueid came in for the injured Aly Abeid and two minutes later, Tunisia’s Khazri became the first player to be booked by Egyptian referee Mahmoud El Banna after a clumsy tackle on N’Diaye.
Despite conceding early, Mauritania continued to search for a goal and in the 29th minute, Soueid almost caught keeper Ben Said flat-footed after his well-curled free-kick from outside the 18-yard area kissed over the bar.
Tunisia’s Bilel Ifa became the second player to be shown a yellow card after a foul in the 37th minute and a minute later, Mauritania’s Aboubakar Kamara was also booked for arguing with the referee.
Mauritania created another chance in the 43rd minute when Aboubakar Kamara found himself with a great opportunity but he unleashed a shot from the edge of the box, which whizzed just wide of the left post and it was the last chance as Tunisia headed into the half-time break leading 2-0.
The second half kicked off with Mauritania coach Didier Gomes Da Rosa making another change as Pape Ibnou Ba came in to replace Kamara, and in the 50th minute Mauritania got another chance to cut the lead from a corner kick but the dangerous ball was cleared by Tunisia defender Ali Maaloul.
Mauritania, who lost their opener 1-0 against the Gambia, made more changes as Hemeya Tanjy replaced Oumar Camara while Houssen Abderrahmane also benched the hardworking N’Diaye.
After a host of missed chances, Mauritania were punished with 26 minutes left to the final whistle as Khazri made it 3-0 after collecting the ball inside the box and found himself in a one-on-one situation against Diop, before drilling a low drive effort to the back of the net.
Two minutes later, the unmarked Jaziri made it 4-0 with a wonderful finish, after latching onto a cross from Khazri and placing the ball beyond the advancing Diop.
After the two quick goals, Tunisia coach Mondher Kbaier pulled out Anis Slimane for Hamza Rafia, Seifeddine Jaziri was replaced by Aissa Laidouni while two-goal hero Khazri came out for Youssef Msakni.
In added minutes, Tunisia had a chance to make it 5-0 from the penalty spot but Youssef Msakni's weak effort was saved by Diop.
The win left Tunisia third on three points from two matches while the Gambia, who will later take on Mali, are top of the group with four points.