Tunisia coach Jalel Kadri says “nothing is decided” despite defeating Mali 1-0 in Bamako in the first-leg of the 2022 World Cup playoff.
The Carthage Eagles have the home advantage going into the return encounter on Tuesday as they host the Malians in the second-leg in Rades.
The North Africans won the game thanks to Mali defender Moussa Sissako, who was the unfortunate villain for the home side as he scored an own goal and was sent off moments later.
Sissako, who plays for Belgian top-flight side Standard Liege, inadvertently put the ball into his own net in the 36th minute.
Things got worse for the Mali centre-back who was sent off four minutes later when he was adjudged to have fouled an opponent at the edge of the box as the last man.
Tunisia defended in numbers to preserve their lead as the Malians attacked relentlessly which led coach Kadri to praise his players for their tactical awareness.
“We won this match in Bamako thanks to our capital experience and tactical maturity,” the Carthage Eagles coach Kadri said at the post-match press conference.
“Despite the quality of the Malian players, the Tunisia players took advantage of their awareness in tactics and their experience in this kind of competition.
“And at this level, it is the Tunisian experience in this kind of competition that made the difference and this experience requires us to maintain the same state of mind during the return leg.
The Tunisia boss warned his players not to indulge in overly celebrating their away victory as the Malian players demonstrated that they are capable of causing an upset.
“This victory will not matter if we do not confirm it in the return leg. We know that it will be even more difficult and that is why we will forget this victory on the way,” Kadri warned his players ahead of the second leg.
Nothing is decided yet. We will remain very calm, very focused because it will be another match even if we have a slight advantage,” said Kadri who revealed that he did not have to change much in the Tunisian team that took part in the AFCON just last month.
“I was in the staff during the AFCON and it was my predecessor who had put everything in place,” he said, adding that Tunisia will always play on its qualities in this kind of match.
“Mali has great players and despite playing in numerical inferiority, it posed problems and that is why we must remain vigilant.” he added.