Debutants Mauritania given harsh 4-1 lesson by Mali
ISMAILIA, Egypt, June 25, (RTRS): Five-times winners and holders Cameroon put a pre-tournament pay dispute behind them to beat rank outsiders Guinea Bissau 2-0 in their opening match at the Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday.
The Indomitable Lions took more than an hour to break down stubborn resistance before Yaya Banana and substitute Stephane Bahoken scored in a three-minute spell to give Clarence Seedorf’s side a winning start in Group F. Banana headed in at the far post from a corner in the 66th minute before Bahoken, who only entered the pitch one minute earlier, reacted quickly to turn the ball in after it rebounded to him.
Cameroon’s players refused to board their flight for Egypt due to a dispute over bonuses last Thursday and eventually travelled the following day despite saying they were still not satisfied.
Mali produced three stunning goals as they thumped Africa Cup of Nations debutants Mauritania 4-1, handing their neighbours a harsh lesson in their first ever match at the finals.
Abdoulaye Diaby blasted Mali in front and Moussa Marega converted a penalty to put them 2-0 ahead by halftime.
Adama Traore added a third before substituted by his namesake Adama Traore who then scored the fourth, both from outside the penalty area.
In between, El Hacen El Id made history by converting a penalty for Mauritania’s first ever goal at the tournament.
Mali, playing at their seventh successive finals, became the first team to score more than two goals in a match at the tournament and also produced arguably the best performance so far.
“We have a young team so we mustn’t get carried away,” said Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba. “We must go forward, match by match, opponent by opponent.”
Mauritania began brightly but were let down by too many elementary mistakes. They completely messed up one free kick around 30 metres from goal, gifting possession to their opponents, and their first touches were often heavy.
Mali took a while to get going but, with a young team of players based mainly in France and Portugal, were impressive once they got into full flight.
Diaby broke the deadlock after collecting a pass around 30 metres from goal, shuffling past two defenders and firing a rising shot into the net from just outside the area.
The powerful Moussa Marega was a constant threat for Mali, and after being denied several times, finally got on the scoresheet with a penalty in the 45th minute after Hamari Traore was tripped by Mauritania goalkeeper Brahim Souleimane.
Mali continued to dominate after halftime and, 10 minutes after the re-start, Adama Traore slipped past a couple of defenders and beat Souleimane with a low shot from outside the area.
Mauritania kept pressing forward and were rewarded with a penalty which El Hacen El Id converted, prompting delirious celebrations amid the players and officials.
Those were cut short, however, when substitute Adama Traore curled in from 25 metres to complete the scoring in style.
“We lost confidence after their first goal, lost the ball a few times, we lacked some aggressiveness,” said Mauritania coach Corentin Martins. “This evening was a disappointment.”
Meanwhile Sadio Mane would be prepared to swap his Champions League success with Liverpool for an Africa Cup of Nations medal with Senegal, he said as he readied for his first game at the tournament in Egypt.
“To win for my country, which has never won a Cup of Nations, would be magnificent. I am even ready to trade in my Champions League success to win the Africa Cup of Nations,” Mane told France Football in an interview published on Tuesday.
“The return to Dakar (with the trophy) would be extraordinary. That is my craziest dream,” he said.