Mali’s impressive performance in their Group E opening match of the Africa Cup of Nations led to a triumphant 2-0 victory over South Africa. The team showcased their strength right from the start, with Hamari Traore and Lassine Sinayoko scoring quick goals that played a crucial role in securing the win.

By Peter Fitzpatrick

Quick-fire goals by Hamari Traore and Lassine Sinayoko helped Mali to a comfortable 2-0 win over South Africa in their Group E opener of the Africa Cup of Nations. South Africa’s Percy Tau missed a first-half penalty and Mali scored twice in six minutes after the restart.

Next up for Mali is a clash with Tunisia while Bafana Bafana meet Namibia needing a result to keep their knockout hopes alive.

Mali got their latest attempt at winning the Africa Cup of Nations off to an impressive start with a 2-0 win over South Africa.

Despite being the dominant side for much of the contest, The Eagles did not have everything their own way with Bafana Bafana putting up a spirited effort.

They could and should have taken an early lead in the 19th minute, but former Brighton forward Percy Tau blazed his penalty high over the bar. Wearing No. 10, his kick was similar to that of his rugby equivalent in the Springboks’ recent World Cup success.

Mali took their time but, in the space of seven second-half minutes, made South Africa further regret that miss with two quick-fire goals.

The first was a tap-in from captain Hamari Traore on the hour after Sekou Keita rattled the bar with a brilliant curling free-kick. The second came as a result of Lassine Sinayoko, who finished in style after South Africa’s passing from the back broke down.

The win makes it three for The Eagles against the 1996 champions in the competition and continues their impressive record of never losing an opening game as well. Eric Chelle’s men now take on Tunisia on Saturday night looking to book an early spot in the knockout stages.

As for South Africa, they already face a near do-or-die game with neighbours Namibia on Sunday night.

Talking Point – Well-supported Mali put on a show

With Mali a neighbour of fellow West African nation and host, Ivory Coast, it was predicted that they would be well supported. That was evidently clear at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium, with Mali having the backing of most of the stadium against South Africa, in what must have felt like a home game at times for the Eagles.

With their next group game against Tunisia at the same venue, Mali will have a definitive advantage once again and should for the remainder of the tournament. With more fans in attendance can come more pressure, however, as Yves Bissouma and Co. look to win the Africa Cup of Nations at the 13th attempt.

Unlucky for some? We’ll soon find out.

Player of the Match – Lassine Sinayoko (Mali)

Despite his meagre return at club level this season for Auxerre (four goals in 19 appearances), Sinayoko looked a striker full of confidence on Tuesday night.

He was a constant threat to the South African defence, leading his side’s press from the outset and being their main goal threat.

He capped off a fine display with a goal that showcased everything you would want from a No. 9. First, he outmuscled his marker when running onto Kamory Doumbia’s through ball and then finished expertly past South African skipper Ronwen Williams.

If Mali are to go far in this year’s tournament, Sinayoko will need to be firing and this was a great start.

Player Ratings

Mali: Diarra 7, Sacko 7, Niakate 6, Kouyate 6, H. Traore 7, Dieng 6, Haidara 6, Doumbia 7, Bissouma 6, Koita 7, Sinayoko 8.

Subs: Coulibaily 7, Diabete 6, Sissoko 6, Dorgeles 6.

South Africa: Williams 7, Modiba 7, Mvala 6, Xulu 6, Mudau 6, Maseko 6, Sithole 6, Mokoena 6, Tau 5, Makgopa 6, Zwane 6.

Subs: Lepasa 6, Mayambela 6, Morena 6.

Match Highlights

19′ – Shocker From South Africa! Tau looked confident stepping up but skied his sidefooted shot miles over the bar!

60′ – Goal For Mali! From the resulting free-kick, Sekou Koita cracked the crossbar and captain Hamari Traore tapped in the rebound from barely a yard out. Big goal.

66′ – Goal For Mali! South Africa’s attempts to play out from defence backfired when they lost the ball. Seconds later, Sinayoko had the ball in the net with a fine finish.

That could be that! –

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