Mali are through to the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Cote d’ivoire 2023 quarter finals after a nail-biting 2-1 win over Burkina Faso on Tuesday in Korhogo.
An unfortunate own goal by Edmond Tabsoba along with a second half strike by Lassine Sinayoko were enough for the Eagles to soar over the Stallions at a packed Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium.
It took just three minutes for Mali to take the lead after a powerful Amadou Haidara header came off the woodwork, but instead of it being cleared away, Edmond Tabsoba was unfortunate to see his clearance go into his own net.
Minutes later, Kamory Doumbia, who was a handful for the Burkinabe defence almost doubled his side’s lead. This was after a great build up which saw him through on goal, but his effort was denied by the advancing Kouakou Koffi.
A golden opportunity fell the way of the in-form Sinayoko to double the lead after doing well to turn his marker to unleash a powerful effort that was denied by the alert Koffi in the 35th minute.
Encouraged by the momentum, the Eagles continued surging forward but wasted numerous opportunities as they took the slender lead into the break.
Returning from the recess, Sinayoko capitalised on a lapse of concentration after beating the offside trap to face the keeper and comfortably slot home with just minutes into the restart.
A lifeline was given to the Stallions after Mohamed Konate’s headed effort came off the arm of Boubacar Kouyate for VAR to award a penalty that was converted by skipper Bertrand Traore in the 57th minute.
The Stallions eventually gained their rhythm and piled on the pressure, but a resolute Mali defence kept them at bay, as the Eagles soared into the quarter-finals to face tournament hosts, Cote d’Ivoire on Saturday in Bouake.
Hubert Velud, Burkina Faso Coach, admitted to news men during a post match conference that his team lost to a better side.
“I honestly have no one to blame. We lost against a better side.
“Mali have good players. We got some opportunities but also introduced new players. I was not surprised by the quality of this team. Very good quality with top level midfielders.
“Offensively, we saw a great team of Mali and we credit them,” he said.
Velud said his team would go back to the drawing board to make the needed adjustments and bounce back stronger next time out.
“We will digest this defeat. We have to review and analyse the good and the bad during our time here.
“The AFCON is very open for anyone to win. It is one of the best AFCONs in terms of football and organisation.
“It is unfortunate that we will not participate any further,” he said.
Mali’s Coach, Eric Chelle expressed delight at the win, adding that the victory was well deserved.
“We need to be humble in our victory and continue with hard work. I am very happy for the players.
“They deserve the victory because they are a group of hard workers.
“I think the victory was well deserved but the lesson learnt is that 2-0 can be a dangerous score against a determined team,” he said.
He described their next game against the hosts as a very interesting and difficult one, adding that his team would give their best against their opponents.
“I have some friends and former teammates in our next opponent, so this will also be an interesting fixture for me.
“We know that it will be difficult against them, but we will bring our quality and give it our best against them.
“I want to emphasise the importance of humility in this victory,” he said.