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Wednesday, 17 January 2024 05:44

Mali get off to flying start in AFCON 2023 with 2-0 win over South Africa.

By Eshlin Vedan.

Hamari Traore and Lassine Sinayoko struck as Mali beat South Africa 2-0 in their Africa Cup of Nations opener.

Percy Tau sent a penalty over the bar for Bafana Bafana in a first half characterised by missed chances.

The pattern continued until Traore tapped in the rebound after Sekou Koita's free-kick hit the woodwork.

Sinayoko seized on Kamory Doumbia's pass to rifle the second from inside the box six minutes later and seal victory for the 1972 finalists.

The result at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo means Mali have won all three Afcon games they have played against South Africa, having beaten them at the 2002 and 2013 editions.

Mali are top of Group E ahead of Namibia, who earlier stunned Tunisia with a 1-0 victory for their first ever Afcon victory.

South Africa started in promising fashion and caused Mali early problems with their pace, winning a penalty in the 18th minute after Sikou Niakate was adjudged to have fouled Evidence Makgopa in the box following a VAR check by referee Mohamed Hussein.

Al Ahly forward Tau - the reigning Confederation of African Football (Caf) Interclub Player of the Year - ballooned his effort over and blazed another shot behind less than 10 minutes later.

A lack of attacking finesse let South Africa down, Mali goalkeeper Djigul Diarra denying them with routine saves.

Mali were nearly gifted a goal on the stroke of half-time when a lapse of concentration at the back by South Africa allowed Sinayoko through on goal, but Ronwen Williams was alert to the danger and came off his line to nudge the ball away.

With South Africa showing signs of tiredness, Mali completely dominated the second half against disjointed-looking opponents who struggled to create chances.

Teboho Mokoena went closest for the 1996 champions with a last-minute free-kick from distance which smashed against a post.

Mali, who are ranked 51st and tipped as Afcon dark horses, are back in action against Tunisia on Saturday (20:00 GMT)

Broos' players will take on southern African neighbours Namibia, who have 10 players in their squad playing for clubs in South Africa, on Sunday (20:00 GMT).