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Africa Cup of Nations

Gambia 1-1 Mali: Afcon 2021 debutants fight back to deny the Eagles

16:55 WAT 16/01/2022
Falaye Sacko of Mali and Assan Ceesay of Gambia, January 2022
The Scorpions boosted their hopes of reaching the knockout phase after holding their much-fancied opponents

The Gambia remain undefeated in their debut appearance in the Africa Cup of Nations finals after holding Mali to a 1-1 draw in a Group F match in Cameroon on Sunday afternoon.

Musa Barrow's late strike cancelled out Ibrahima Konate's opening goal as the surprise package of the 2021 Afcon finals showed character against the Eagles in a match that was played at Limbe Stadium.

The two teams were oozing with confidence with The Gambia having marked their maiden appearance in the tournament with a 1-0 win over Mauritania on Wednesday, while Mali secured a 1-0 victory against Tunisia on the same day.

The Eagles of Mali saw most of the ball in the opening exchanges and they threatened first through Moussa Djenepo. The Southampton attacker connected well with a cross from the right, but his headed effort went narrowly wide of the target.

The Gambia's Scorpians grew into the game as it progressed and they looked dangerous from set-pieces. The Scorpians were unfortunate not to score through Barrow, whose thunderous shot from 35 yards out hit the crossbar with goalkeeper Ibrahim Mounkoro well beaten.

Mali continued to give away free-kicks near the box with Assan Ceesay and Barrow creating problems for the Eagles defence. Able Jallow also came close to taking the lead as his curling effort hit Mounkoro's right upright and the score was 0-0 at half-time.

Mohamed Magassouba made changes prior to the start of the second half as the Malia head coach introduced Adama Noss Traore and Amadou Haidara. The 1972 Afcon runners-up were then able to regain control of the game and exerted some pressure onto The Gambia.

Keeper Modu Jobe, who had a quiet first-half, became a busy man in the Scopians' goal-posts as he produced a brilliant save to deny Noss Traore from close range, before finger tipping a thunderous shot from Haidara's well-taken free-kick over the crossbar. 

Mali piled more pressure on Scorpians and they were awarded a penalty after Yves Bissuouma was fouled in the box. Kone then stepped up and fired past Jobe from the spot-kick to hand Mali a well-deserved 1-0 lead in the 78th minute.

The Scorpions then pushed for the equalising goal in the closing stages and they were also awarded a penalty after Bissiuma was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box. Barrow made no mistake from the spot-kick in the 90th minute as he beat Mounkoro to ensure that the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

The draw saw The Gambia remain at the top of the Group F standings, but they are level on points with second-placed Mali and the two teams will take on Tunisia and Mauritania respectively in their final group matches on Thursday.