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Angola 4 Mali 4

January 10, 2010

Mali celebrate as Mustapha Yatabaré equalises to complete a stunning comeback - BBC

Angola 4 Mali 4
Estádio 11 de Novembro, Luanda
African Cup of Nations Group A
10th January 2010

“Football is like this sometimes. It can be a little bit crazy,” said Mahamadou Diarra after his Mali side snatched a draw after being 4-0 down with 11 minutes to go in the opening game of the 2010 African Nations Cup.

He was right. For nearly 80 minutes Mali were poor; their defence routinely exposed by an Angola side that took an extremely surprising 4-0 lead with a combination of some clinical finishing and woeful marking by their opponents.

Angola started with a back 3 of Francisco Zuela, captain Kali, and Rui Marques, currently of Leeds United. They were rarely threatened in a drab opening half-hour as the right-sided Mabina moved up and down the pitch, augmenting the defence when necessary and providing width up front.

The host nation created little though until a free-kick was lashed into the box by Gilberto, the left-sided number 11 who caused Mali problems all evening, helped by his pechant for going down under the slightest contact. His cross was met by Flavio, who had eluded his marker and headed past Mali ‘keeper Sidibé.

The comeback begins: Keita takes advantage of a goalkeeping error - BBC

Five minutes later he netted again, when he got goal-side of the hapless Ousmane Berthé to meet a wonderful cross from Mabina. Again he headed into the roof of the net. This was not in the script; in the last meeting between the teams, in March, Mali had hammered Angola 4-0.

After half time Mali improved for five minutes, before yielding possession too easily. Barcelona’s Seydou Keita had come on for Modibo Maiga with the score at 0-0; Maiga had failed to link up with Frédéric Kanouté had hoped, but Keita was doing little to help Mali either.

Halfway through the second period Mali absymally failed to clear their lines and Gilberto was released down the right. Mamadou Bagayoko, a striker hopelessly marooned on the right, took a swipe at the tricky winger and he went down. The referee rightly pointed to the spot and Gilberto put the ball past Sidibé twice, the ref having ordered a retake.

It was now 3-0, and Mali, expected by many to top the group, looked helpless. It got worse when Gilberto – not for the first time – tumbled with minimal contact from Keita, Mali’s right side having been exposed once again. This time Mauncho confidently struck from 12 yards to make the score 4-0, and a reversal of the March scoreline looked likely.

If anything though, Angola were more likely to increase their lead, playing some nice football on a pitch that looked unfit for purpose in the first half. The players had at least by now adapted, at least partially, and the ball was played along the ground rather than aimlessly punted long, where it invariably bounced too far away from the strikers.

The impressive Flavio headed two goals for the hosts - BBC

Mali got what looked like a consolation when Keita bundled home from a corner after Angola ‘keeper Carlos Fernandes (who had, up to then, been excellent – notably blocking a shot from point-blank range at 2-0) made an error not seen since Massimo Taibi allowed a tame Matt Le Tissier shot through his body at Old Trafford. The ball broke in the six-yard box and Keita slotted in.

Kanouté scored a second with two minutes remaining when he headed superbly into the corner from an Adama Tamboura cross from the left. Mali then pumped the ball into the box and Angola will be wondering why they allowed their defenders to be outnumbered four to three as Berthé, who had endured a horrible match, crossed for Keita to lash home. It was 4-3 and there were almost two minutes of stoppage time remaining.

It was clear that Angola could not cope with balls pumped into the box, and Mali understandably did the same again: this time Mustapha Yatabaré followed up a parry from Fernandes. 4-4.

Players and officials of Algeria and Malawi, who meet tomorrow, must have enjoyed watching this clash between their Group A rivals: Mali had defended atrociously for much of the game, and Angola had thrown away a 4-0 lead in amateurish fashion.

Meanwhile Diarra, and the rest of us, were left reflecting on an incredible comeback, and a stunning opener to the 2010 African Cup of Nations.

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