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Mali 1-0 Niger

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Keita: Match winner

Keita: Match winner

Seydou Keita netted an 84th minute goal to secure a 1-0 win for Mali over Niger in their opening Africa Cup of Nations encounter at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Sunday evening.

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The Eagles were expected to make light work of Menas but were pushed all the way by their West African neighbours who will be disappointed to have not held on for a draw.

Mali became the first side to win a match in South Africa with the three previous ties all ending in draws.

Patrice Carteron's side started well and dominated proceedings from the off and Cheick Diabate had two good early chances to give his side the lead but he failed to beat Kassaly Daouda on both occasions - first with a low shot the goalkeeper saved with his feet, before he struck a half-volley directly into the Chippa United man's arms.

Moussa Maazou, who struggled to really make an impact on this game, did well to drive down the right flank before delivering a cross that was easily cut out by Fousseni Diawara.

Keita then set up Cheick Diarra who delivered a teasing cross from the left but the keeper was first to the ball.

Diarra made another great break forward moments later and after initially being stopped in his tracks by Mohamed Bachar, the ball broke for Diabate who delivered a super cross for Diarra but he was unable to keep his effort down on the stretch.

Mahamane Traore had a number of pot shots from range but none of which troubled Daouda.

Mahamadou N'Diaye was next to come close to an opener but could only direct his header from a Sigamary Diarra corner wide of the target.

Niger's best chance of the first half fell to Molla Wague who smashed his shot goalward from a tight angle, but Mahamadou Samassa was well-placed to make the save.

Daouda then missed a deep free-kick from Seydou Keita with Cheick Diarra looking to pounce but the ball flew harmlessly out for a goal-kick.

Mali enjoyed the last chance of the first period as Sigamary Diarra launched a long-ball forward to Diabate, who got his head to the ball but without being able to direct his header past Daouda.

Keita tried his luck from range at the start of the second period but his effort was deflected wide for a corner.

Substitute Mahamadou Samassa then cut inside his man before letting rip with a low shot that flew wide of the left-hand post.

Soumaila was next to try his luck from distance but his effort sailed harmlessly wide of the target.

Keita forced a good save from Daouda after a sweeping move from Mali before Samassa made a brave diving save to deny Modibo Sidibe after the striker had been set through on goal by Boubacar Issoufou.

Samassa found some space in the box but hit his shot from the right-hand side into the side netting.

Maazou headed over the bar following a corner from the left from Issoufou as Keita smashed a shot against the crossbar after being delightfully set up by Diarra on the edge of the box following a low cross from Samassa.

But Keita was not to be denied from close range after the ball fell kindly to him following an error from Daouda under pressure from Diabate.

Niger tied in vain to find an equaliser but it wasn't to be and Mali take the advantage going into their second group game with Ghana on Thursday.

Niger will face the Democratic Republic of Congo in their next match.

Posted: 20/01/13 20:35

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