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Football | Afcon

Keita goal fires Mali into quarters



Barcelona’s Seydou Keita handed Mali a hard fought victory over Botswana in the sides’ 2012 Africa Cup of Nations Group D meeting at the Stade d'Angondjé in Libreville.

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Mali walked out 2-1 victors courtesy of Keita’s goal and Garra Dembele, who cancelled out Mogakolodi Ngele’s opener. The Eagles join Group D winners Ghana in the quarterfinals.

Botswana went into this game hoping to put to bed the memories of that 6-1 defeat to Guinea behind them with a positive performance. While The Zebras could have qualified for the last eight, they needed an incredible score line to do that.

Botswana were put under pressure early in this game, as they had every man behind the ball as Mali played with confidence.

The Eagles’ Modibo Maiga did well to turn his marker inside out but his cross was over-hit when a goal looked certain in the 15th minute.

Again in the 26th minute, Maiga, who had been seeing a lot of the ball out wide for much of the match, got his head to a deep cross but failed to keep the effort on target under pressure from the Botswana defence.

Bakaye Traore with a wasted a great scoring opportunity to round off a super build up for Mali, although the ball did bobble horribly just as he hit his shot from the edge of the box. There must have been 30 passes on the edge of the Botswana box as the Eagles tried to find space in which to attack.

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In the 42nd minute, Abdou Traore found some magic in his feet with a fantastic turn as he tried to open up the Botswana defence, but to no avail, before Drissa Diakite drove in a fierce cross that Marumo did well to palm away. The Zebras are showed great discipline in defence.

In the second half, the Zebras looked a lot more attack minded in the opening minutes and it came as no surprise when they opened the scoring. In the 51st minute, Mogakolodi Ngele powered the ball into the back of the net with his left foot after latching on to a great cross from the right-hand side from Moemedi Moatlhaping to make it 1-0.

But Botswana’s happiness did not last long as Mali responded within a matter of minutes. Garra Dembele restored parity from close range for the Eagles.

A great cross from Traore from the left-hand side was headed on target by Maiga and it was well saved by Marumo, but Dembele was first to react and smashed the ball home from just outside the Botswana six-yard box.

In the 68th minute, Coulibaly smashed the ball against the crossbar after an incredible run following a link up with Dembele. The substitute raced into the box before unleashing a bullet of a shot.

Seydou Keita renewed his side's hope of progressing with a super finish in the 75th minute. The Barcelona man curled the ball into the top left-hand corner of the net after linking up with substitute Diabate, who just managed to poke the ball back to his teammate with Motlhabankwe unable to clear the ball while sitting on the deck.

After the goal, every Botswana player was behind the ball as they attempted to stifle the Mali frontline, who were buoyed by their goal and went in search of another.

Phenyo Mongala’s late influenced did not repay the Zebras as Mali went on to win 2-1.



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