Hosts Gabon crash out

Home hopes crumbled for Gabon in the lottery of a penalty shoot-out at the African Nations Cup on Sunday but Ghana's hopeful search to end a long drought at the finals continued.

On target! Ghana’s John Mensah sets off on a celebratory run after scoring against Tunisia during their African Nations Cup clash on Sunday. Reuters

Mali beat co-hosts Gabon 5-4 on post-match kicks after extra time in Libreville to douse the passion of an expectant populace in first of the day's quarterfinal encounters. The match ended 1-1 as Mali equalised just six minutes from the end.

Ghana, seeking their first Nations Cup title in 30 years, won the later game in the provincial town of Franceville, beating Tunisia 2-1 after extra time courtesy of a goalkeeping howler.

An embarrassing mistake by Aymen Mathlouthi left him devastated at the end of a tempestuous encounter but his grief was nothing like that of Gabon's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The French-born striker, whose Mohican haircut, devastating pace and goal-scoring acumen has turned him into a national hero, was the only player to fail to convert in the penalty shootout that followed the draw in Libreville.

Aubameyang, whose goals had fired Gabon into the knockout stages, had a meek effort in the shootout saved by Mali's Soumailia Diakite and left the field disconsolate, weeping on the shoulder of his father who was Gabon captain in the 1990s. A near-capacity crowd at the Chinese-built stadium, newly constructed for the tournament, went silent as the realisation of their elimination sunk in.

Mali will meet the Ivory Coast in Libreville while Ghana go to Bata in co-host country Equatorial Guinea to meet Zambia in Wednesday’s semis.

Mali were six minutes from going out before snatching an equaliser from substitute Cheick Tidiane Diabate.

His 84th minute effort came after a strong run up the wing by fullback Adama Tamboura and a good cross knocked into Diabate's path by Modibo Maiga. But Mali spent much of the game on the back foot as Eric Mouloungui scored in the 55th minute.

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