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Colombia Stays in Contention, Beats Tunisia 1-0

By Tarek El-Tablawy
Associated Press
Monday, June 22, 1998; 1:31 p.m. EDT




 Colombia's Farid Mondragon (left) is flanked by Tunisia's Sami Trabelsi (right) and Skander Souayah (No. 15) during 1-0 victory by the Colombians. (Michael Probst/Associated Press)
MONTPELLIER, France — Substitute Leider Preciado fired the winner seven minutes from the end as Colombia, who limped home in dismay from World Cup 1994, stayed in contention for the second round of France '98 with a nervous 1-0 victory over Tunisia.

Preciado took a pass from veteran Carlos Valderrama, shook off challenges from Sami Trabelsi and Clayton, and prodded the ball home from 12 yards.

It was a goal that sent the Colombian players and bench into wild celebration while the dismayed Tunisians, also beaten 2-0 by England, looked almost certain to drop out of the championship.

With Faustino Asprilla no longer on the squad having been dropped for criticizing Coach Herman Dario Gomez in a radio interview, the Colombian attack was missing one of its biggest stars as it maintained its bid to make the second round.

But Adolfo Valencia almost gave the South Americans the lead in the opening when he collected a slick pass from Freddy Rincon, only for a back-tracking Tunisian to block his 16-meter drive.

At the other end, Skander Souayah moved into a wide open shooting position outside the Colombian penalty area but shot tamely wide.

Souayeh had another chance in the 18th minute from a similar position but still shot wide of the post.

The Colombians were denied the lead by a wonder save from Chokri el-Oauer in the 22nd minute when Jose Santa floated over a cross from the left and Wilmer Cabrera moved up to power in a long-range header. The Tunisian 'keeper reacted with an acrobatic one-handed punch over the bar.

Four minutes later the 'keeper raced off his line to block an angled shot from Anthony De Avila with his foot after the Colombian had broken clear of the Tunisian defense.

With the Colombians showing signs of getting on top, Tunisia broke out to almost take the lead in the 29th minute when the unmarked Mehdi Ben Slimane was allowed a far post far post header. Fortunately for the South Americans, 'keeper Farid Mondragon was alert and pushed the header onto the post.

Valencia maintained the pressure by firing a 25-meter shot just too high and then heading against the post from a corner.

But Tunisia also hit the bar two minutes before halftime when Mondragon fisted away a corner, the ball hit Bouazizi on the back of the head and rebounded onto the frame.

The Tunisians went close to taking the lead 10 minutes into the second half when Souayah fed Ben Slimane in front of goal but Mondragon managed to block his shot with his legs.

Ben Slimane wriggled through the Colombian defense again two minutes later but Mondragon and a defender managed to scrambled the ball for a corner.

The Tunisians continued to create the better chances and Bel Slimane managed to get in a right-wing cross despite being crowded out by three Colombian defenders in the 66th minute only for the unmarked Zoubeir Baya to volley wide from a good position in front of goal.

The Colombians hit back with a low shot from substitute Preciado that flashed across the face of the Tunisian goal. Then Victor Aristizabal arrived unmarked at the far post to meet a right wing cross from Anthony De Avila only for 'keeper El-Oauer to scramble back and palm his looping header away.

At the other end, Mondragon made two reflex-action saves, blocking a header from Souayah and then a follow up effort from Ben Slimane.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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