Mali edge past Guinea
Bakaye Traore, centre (AFP)
Franceville - Mali edged neighbours Guinea 1-0 in the west African derby at the Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday evening.
It was a case of history repeating itself as Mali also triumphed when both countries last clashed at this level in the 2004 edition of the competition in Tunisia.
Against the run of play, Bakaye Traore opened the scoring for Mali on the half hour with a fierce shot from outside the box off a loose ball.
Samba Diakite, who was making his international debut, as well as the skilful Modibo Maiga, were impressive for Mali.
For Guinea, Ibrahima Traore with his mesmerising solo runs caught the eye while the duel between Mali's towering striker Tidiane Cheick Diabate and his equally imposing marker veteran Bobo Balde was also an interesting aspect of this clash.
Before Mali’s opening goal, Guinea enjoyed the upper hand in this exciting Group D match.
The attack swung from one end of the pitch to the other with Guinea carving out the best chances to go ahead.
In the 17th minute, Guinea striker Ismael Bangoura was denied by Mali goalkeeper Soumaila Diakite, who did very well to dive full length to push away his goal-bound header.
And 10 minutes later, Guinea again threatened when Alhassan Bangoura went on a solo run before he let fly a shot which crashed against the side netting as the noisy stadium erupted.
In the 34th minute, Ismael Bangoura again went clear but Diakite used his body to great effect to deny him from right inside his box.
Sadio Diallo was then booked for diving when he sped into the Mali box before he went down as if he had been hit with an axe.
On 40 minutes, Alhassan’s header off a corner missed the target but not by much as Guinea continued to fight for an equalising goal.
Guinea continued to press as the game wore on. Substitute Barry Ousmane missed a header inside the box in the 63rd minute, while Pascal Feindouno fired well off the mark from distance on 70 minutes.
At the other end of the pitch, substitue Garra Dembele saw his cross-cum-shot scrambled for a corner by the Guinea goalkeeper Naby Yattara.
Diakite saved a free kick by Feindouno on 80 minutes as The Syli Stars threw everything at their neighbours, but the Mali defence held firm till the end.