May 19, 2024

2023 AFCON: Mali Beat South Africa In AFCON Opener

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By Sportsgister


South Africa’s 2023 Africa Cup of Nations campaign got off to a poor start after they were beaten 2-0 by Group E rivals Mali at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on Tuesday night.


Bafana Bafana put up a strong showing in the first half but failed to take their chances – including a missed penalty – and were maid to pay by the Eagles in the second stanza, as Hamari Traore and Lassine Sinayoko found the back of the net to see them join Namibia (who stunned Tunisia earlier in the evening) at the top of the group standings on three points.


The teams traded chances in the opening quarter hour, before South Africa were awarded a penalty after a VAR review for an elbow from Mali defender Sikou Niakate on Evidence Makgopa. However, Percy Tau struck the 18th minute penalty high and wide.


Tau had another great chance on 35 minutes when a long pass from midfield put him in on goal, but his right-footed shot from a right angle was turned away by goalkeeper Djigui Diarra.


The Eagles ‘keeper made another couple of regulation saves as Bafana Bafana created further half chances, while injury time before the interval saw Ronwen Williams make a key block to deny Lassine Sinayoko after he latched onto a poor back-header.


Mali enjoyed another great chance in the early minutes of the second half, tearing through the defence after stealing the ball high up the field, but Amadou Haidara skewed his effort high and wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.


The West Africans claimed the lead in the 60th minute via Hamari Traore, who easily tapped home on the goal line after Sekou Koita’s shot direct from a free kick had the beating of Williams and rebounded off the underside of the crossbar.


And six minutes later Mali doubled their advantage, with Sinayoko shrugging off Siyanda Xulu before providing a classy stabbed finish past Williams – all after they had once again caught South Africa trying to play out from the back.


Bafana Bafana opted to introduce Zakhele Lepasa, Mihlali Mayambela and Thapelo Morena off the bench to try and turn the game around, but Mali still looked the more dangerous team and Haidara almost scored a third with a low drive on 85 minutes that was mere inches wide.


The teams will return to Group E action on the weekend, with Mali facing Tunisia on Saturday 13 January, while South Africa will tackle Namibia the following day.


Mali (0) 2 (H. Traore 60’, Sinayoko 66’)


South Africa 0


Mali: Diarra, H. Traore, Kouyate, Niakate, Sacko, Dieng (Diabate 78’), Haidara (B. Traore 86’), Bissouma (Coulibaly 58’), Doumbia, Sinayoko (Sissoko 86’), Koita (Nene 87’)


South Africa: Williams, Mudau, Xulu, Mvala, Modiba, Mokoena, Sithole, Zwane (Mayambela 73’), Maseko (Morena 87’), Tau, Makgopa (Lepasa 73’)

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