Newcomers Mauritania were given an unpleasant welcome to their debut AFCON appearance as they lost to West African neighbors Mali 4-1 in their Group E game Monday night in Suez. Mali top the group with three points, two more than Tunisia and Angola who played to a 1-1 draw earlier at the same venue. Mauritania follow in that order pointless.
Mali Eagles were the better side from the start to the end, and capped a convincing performance with an important win that saw them move closer to the next round. Abdoulaye Diaby and Moussa Marega each scored within a span of eight minutes, and Adama Noss Traore added a third just after the break. Hacen Al Ide scored from the spot to give Mauritania a historic goal, but Adama Traore added the fourth for Les Aigles to hand Les Mourabitoune defeat in their first ever AFCON match.
Boosted by their debut, Mauritania started the game in a speedy way but without threatening their opponents’ defense. The game’s first chance came after five minutes when a miscommunication between Mali’s goalkeeper Djigui Diarra could have coasted his team an own goal but the ball was cleared to a corner.
Mali’s first chance fell to Diaby whose shot from outside the area missed the goal by a slim margin after nine minutes. Adama Traore tried to shoot from distance at the quarter hour mark but he saw his shot going wide.
Once again Diaby tried his luck from outside area and found the same fate after 22 minutes. But Diaby was third time lucky after 38 minutes when his shot from outside the area leaving Mauritania goalkeeper Souleymane Diallo was no chance.
And just before the break Mali were two up. Diallo fouled Lassan Coulibaly inside the vital area leaving the referee with no option but to give Mali a penalty, from which Marega doubled the Eagles lead.
Mauritania coach Corentin Martins fielded star player Moulay Ahmed “Bessam” trying to give the team new blood in attack. But it was Mali that added a third goal via Noss Traore. He received the ball from Diadie Samasekou and sent a curling shot to add to Mauritania woes after 55 minutes.
Mauritania threw all men in attack, and could have scored after 70 minutes when Adama Ba rounded Mali’s goalkeeper Djigui Diarra but Molla Wague tackled to save the ball just before Ba scored.
But Mauritania did have their historic first ever AFCON goal after 72 minutes. Ismail Diakhite was fouled inside the area and from the resulting penalty Al Ide scored to give “Mourabitoune” something to cheer about.
But just two minutes later Mali added the fourth in grand style. Substitute Adama Traore sent a curling shot that went to the right corner to add a fourth for The Eagles.
Mauritania tried hard to score again but the lively game ended with their first defeat, with Mali sending a threatening message to other teams in the group.
Total Man of the match: Abdoulaye Diaby (Mali)