African Cup of Nations - Mali avoid shock to advance

Wed, 01 Feb 19:56:00 2012

Midfielder Seydou Keita scored 15 minutes from time as Mali came from behind to beat Botswana 2-1 in Libreville to advance to the African Nations Cup quarter-finals.

Mali's national football team striker Gara Dembele (L) vies with Botswana's Mogogi (R) - 0

Mali finished second in Group D, behind Ghana, and set up a meeting on Sunday with co-hosts Gabon in Libreville.

Mali proved unconvincing in the match, watched by a 5,000 crowd, but Guinea's failure to beat Ghana in the other group game in Franceville ensured their progress.

Botswana scored first against the run of play with a sweeping move out of their midfield, started and finished by Mogakolodi Ngele in the 51st minute.

He played a pass out wide and delayed his run into Mali's penalty box to arrive at the right moment and sweep the return ball home.

But Mali's pressure paid off six minutes later with Abdou Traore turning the defence before providing a cross that Modibo Maiga forcefully headed goal ward. Botswana goalkeeper Modiri Marumo could only parry it right to Garra Dembele who hammered home from close range.

Keita's goal was set up by his persistence on the edge of the penalty area as he probed an opening and then got a return pass from Cheick Tidiane Diabate to perfectly place the ball into the roof of the net.

Ngele might have had Botswana level soon after but was selfish in going for a long range shot instead of passing but Botswana pressed and ensured some anxious final minutes for Mali.

Then there was the further agony for a full five minute wait until Guinea's failure to beat Ghana was confirmed. The Mali players stood anxiously waiting, watching pictures on the big screen before erupting in celebration.


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