Mali booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations with a 1-1 draw against Group B rivals DR Congo.
Goals from Dieumerci Mbokani for the DR Congo and Mamadou Samassa for Mali produced a share of the spoils in Durban on Monday.
A number these AFCON matches have been slow at the start, with the action peaking in the second half, and often only in the dying minutes of the encounters have goals been scored.
This match was a different story, with DR Congo’s Lomana LuaLua hitting the post in the first minute, before Mali conceded a third-minute penalty.
Dieumerci Mbokani converted the spot kick, giving the Congolese the early lead.
Mali quickly responded, however, and in the 15th minute Adama Tamboura sent in a tight angle cross to a confident Mamadou Samassa, who equalised.
The Congolese found themselves on the back foot at that stage, with Mali growing in confidence after their poor defensive start.
Mali continued to push forward, but despite their hold on possession, they were only able to create a handful of decent chances, which were not converted.
In the 38th minute DR Congo wasted an opportunity from a free kick, with LuaLua curling his effort straight into the wall. The half ended with the score level at 1-1.
Patrice Carteron’s Mali side struggled to impose their dominance in the early stages of the second half, with DR Congo looking the more dangerous side.
Neither of the two squads seemed capable of outdoing the other, and in contrast to a frantic and entertaining first few minutes, the last section of the game was scrappy.
With 10 minutes to go it seemed as though captain Seydou Keita had found a winner for Mali, but his header fell just wide of the target. In the dying minutes DR Congo had a penalty appeal, but the referee waved play on.
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