x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Mali KO host African Cup of Nations host South Africa to reach semis

Soumaila Diakite proved the hero for Mali after saving two penalties in a dramatic quarter-final against the African Cup of Nations hosts after the sides finished 1-1 in extra time.

Mali goalkeeper Soumbeyla Diakite is congratulated by teammates after his penalty saves put the country in the African Cup of Nations semi-finals.
Mali goalkeeper Soumbeyla Diakite is congratulated by teammates after his penalty saves put the country in the African Cup of Nations semi-finals.

South Africa 1 Mali 1 (Mali win 3-1 on penalties)

Soumaila Diakite was the hero for Mali after saving two penalties in their 3-1 penalty shoot-out win over hosts South Africa to help his side progress to the African Cup of Nations semi-final.

Tokelo Rantie had given South Africa the lead on 31 minutes at the Moses Mabhida Stadium before Seydou Keita equalised 12 minutes into the second period.

Neither side could create any more meaningful opportunities in the 90 minutes and following a dull 30 minutes of extra time, the game went to spot kicks.

Mali converted all their penalties, while Diakite saved from Dean Furman and May Mahlangu before Lehlohonolo Majoro shot woefully wide as Gordon Igesund's side crashed out.

"This win signifies a great deal," said Keita afterwards

"You see the Mali flag, which is not only flying in the north and the south of Mali, but also outside Mali.

"Only football can manage this. Mali has her head held high today and we are proud to be Malian. The whole of Mali must be proud, like us."

It was Mali who had the first shot of the game, but from 25 yards out Keita could not find the target.

South Africa came back and after 12 minutes Adama Coulibaly had to block Bernard Parker's goalbound effort, with the resulting cross headed wide by Mahlangu.

Eight minutes later and Diakite was forced into his first save of the match, parrying Tokelo Rantie's effort to safety.

However, he could not keep out Rantie just after the half-hour mark as he converted Thuso Phala's cross from six yards.

Mali had a decent chance to level immediately, but from the edge of the area Modibo Maiga's weak effort was easily gathered by goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune.

On the stroke of half-time they had an excellent chance to level, but Keita's corner was headed wide by Molla Wague from just six yards out.

They did however get their leveller 12 minutes after the restart and it came from talisman Keita, who headed Mahamadou Samassa's cross home from close range.

Full of confidence, Mali looked for a second and just after the hour mark almost took the lead with Khune again coming to the hosts' rescue, pushing Samassa's effort round the post.

It was as close as either side got in the second period, forcing the game into extra-time.

Neither side showed any attacking intent and seemed happy enough for the game to go to penalties.

Siphiwe Tshabalala converted South Africa's first spot-kick, but after Cheick Diabate scored for Mali it started to fall apart for the hosts.

Furman and then Mahlangu's weak efforts were saved and after Adama Tamboura and Mahamane Traore had scored for Mali it was left to Majoro to keep his side in the competition.

Sadly for South Africa his effort flew way wide of the post and Mali went through.

"The South Africans posed a lot of problems in the first half and we had to change the tactics in the second half to get back into the match," said Patrice Carteron, the Mali coach.

"They pressed us with a lot of diversity. But we knew we had to be patient and we had time to fight back."

Igesund was close to tears during the post-match media conference.

"My boys lost with dignity, pride and passion," he said.

"There is only so much any coach can ask from his team and my boys gave everything they had. It is very difficult to accept defeat when you play so well."