• The Eagles are through to the final of the African Nations Championship for the first time since 2016.
Mali defeated Guinea 5-4 on penalty shootouts in a thrilling West African derby at the Japoma Stadium in Douala on Wednesday to reach their second African Nations Championship final since 2016.
Djigui Diarra saved Morlaye Sylla’s penalty kick before Mamadou Coulibaly scored the winner to help the Eagles sail through after taking the game to extra-time for the second time in the competition.
Mali struggled to cope with Guinea’s pressing and intensity and failed to muster some attacking moments of their own. They were forced to make two early substitutions after Mamadou Doumbia limped out only after one minute played and Ibrahim Sidibe followed later before the end of the first half.
Yakhouba Gnagna Barry put the Eagles defence in difficulties during the first half. He was very commanding in his display but was denied on severally occasions from opening the scoring by Djigui Diarra who made a string of saves to keep his side from conceding.
The 22-year-old forward thought he had found the breakthrough but his composed finish at the far post was ruled out for offside. He later released a powerful long range strike which went straight into Mali’s keeper.
Victor Kantabadouno also got a chance to put his side ahead before the break. He rose highest from two Malian defenders but failed to direct his header to the edge of the post.
Mali improved upon resumption and were the dominant force in the second half. They were the first to create goal scoring chances but could make good use of them.
Guinea responded at the hour mark with Morlaye Sylla’s curled free-kick that was carefully pushed over the woodwork by Djigui. Both teams were marred by wrong decisions and sometimes lacked creativity to make the difference.
The Eagles almost got their lead when Guinea’s shot stopper Moussa Camara misjudged Siaka Bagayoko’s left cross from a free-kick but Mouss kone failed to hit his overhead kick properly. With both teams still to score they headed for extra-time to decide on who qualifies for the final.
Mali didn’t drop in their intensity and began to make impact with Moussa Dallo’s volley and Bassekou Diabate’s curled kick which was not good enough to deceive a vigilant Moussa Camara. Guinea faced enormous difficulties to break through Mali’s defence. Gnagna and Sylla who lead their attack saw their standards drop.
The second half of extra-time was not different from the first. Diabate got the best chance of the second half but like previous attempts fired straight at Guinea’s keeper. Mamadouba Bangoura also came close for Guinea but shot wide. Even the additional substitutions didn’t make things better. Both teams continued to play with extreme caution and were already looking forward to decide their fate on penalty shootouts.
After converting all of their first five penalty kicks, Mali qualified for the final. They previously beat Congo Republic on penalty shot-outs with the same score margin (5-4) during the quarter-finals in Yaoundé.
It is the second time Mali has reached the final of the CHAN. They lost to the Democratic Republic of Congo 3-0 in 2016.
They will face either host Cameroon or defending champions Morocco in the final on February 7th in Yaoundé.
Mali 0-0 Guinea [After extra-time]