Opening Game: Angola vs Mali

11 Jan

So with the ceremony done and dusted, the gallant gladiators took to the arena for the opening game, and my, what a game. I dare not say it looks good for my predictions just yet as there is still a long way to go in the group stage, but what started as a somewhat cagey match ended on such a high that it left me screaming and yearning for more. With these 2 teams, my picks to win and finish runner-up in the group, the result was sure to set the tone for the group.

After a very tentative opening 20 minutes, you would have been forgiven for leaving the match and banking on a 0-0 draw. Angola were very much the aggressors, pressing the ball at any time that they did not have it – which wasn’t very often. They flooded forward, pushing the Malians further and further into their own half. Mali looked lead-footed and deflated, giving the ball to the Angolans time and time again. The opening 20 minutes looked more to be about who would make the telling mistake, rather than who would bring this game to life with a moment of brilliance.

The crowd begun to lose voice as Mali begun to get a bit of a foothold in the game. But going forward, Angola always looked the more likely to score. After what looked like a soft foul on 36 minutes, Angola found themselves in the lead thanks to a well taken diving header from Flavio who was unmarked at the back-post. The roof was lifted off the stadium as the host fans began to believe in the Palancas Negras. Six minutes later, the party really started as Flavio latched onto another great cross from the roving right back, Mabina. Mabina the cause for much of Mali’s pinning back, running riot down the wing, almost single-handedly destroyed the Mali back four running at them with boundless energy.

The second half picked up where we left off, with Mali back peddling and Angola steaming ahead on pure adrenaline. The Africa Cup of Nations is one of the tournaments where hosts tend to overachieve or win the cup and Mali seemed to lie back and accept that statistic. But not for long. Mali begun stringing passes together more convincingly and applying pressure on the Angolans. As a mark of how out of the game they were, star striker, Kanouté, had his first attempt on goal after 50 minutes – a left-footed attempt that he sent blazing high and wide. However, this woke the Malians up and they started creating more opportunities. Diarra had the best chance and should have at least employed keeper Carlos, but sent his effort over the  crossbar.

Mali’s efforts were further compounded in the 64th minute, when Gilberto went tumbling over Bagayoko’s leg as he tried to clear from just inside the area. The resulting penalty was well dispatched by Gilberto, not once, but impressively twice as the referee ordered the spot kick be retaken. The second was hit hard and to the keeper’s right. The keeper guessed right but had no chance. Now that’s how you take a penalty. 3 – 0

With time running out, Mali kept pressing but the fat lady was seen clearing her throat when Keita in a moment of madness touched an opponent in the box while in full flight. To me no penalty, but you know if you touch someone in the box, chances are he’s going down. The Barcelona man should have known better. A second penalty. From 12 yards, Manucho shot hard into the bottom right corner. 4 – 0

Someone should have told the Malians it was game over. Fans had started leaving the stadium, confident in their team’s victory. Keita somewhat atoned for his error when he latched onto the ball after a scrap in the box from a corner. 4 – 1

Moments later, Kanouté towered over the defence guiding a powerful header into the bottom right corner. 4 – 2

With 87 minutes on the clock, the Malians had left  too big a mountain for themselves. Or had they? The Angolans were at sixes and sevens, having conceded 2 goals in a matter of minutes. The adrenaline had worn off and the twelfth man had quietened down. The fourth official showed 6 minutes on his board and the fat lady sat back down. In the second minute of added time, a  brilliant, testing ball from the right just cleared Kanouté, who seemed to be brought down, only to find Keita who had ghosted into the back post unmarked and connected, leaving the keeper flailing with no chance. 4 – 3

Angola must have thought they still had the points in the bag as time was running out, but didn’t manage to keep hold of the ball and run the clock down. Another cross from just inside the left side of the Angola half  was met with a head, the keeper parried… straight into the path of Yatabare who finished it off for an amazing come back. 4 – 4

I cannot  believe what i just witnessed! At 4-0 with 17 minutes left on the clock, the Malians had no business coming back into that game, but hey, that’s football.

A brilliant opener to the Africa Cup of Nations. More of the same please.

Final Score: Angola 4 – 4 Mali

Man of the Match: It was going to be Mabina, but it goes to Keita. He was the difference and inspired the comeback. Mali must hope he can stay fit and start the next game.

Goal of the Match: Freddie Kanouté. The power and accuracy of his header (from just inside the box, seriously, it was an awesome header) did it all for me.


Have your say: We’d love to hear what you think and who you think should be Man of the Match and who scored the Goal of the Match. Pit yourself against our football expert now.

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2 Responses to “Opening Game: Angola vs Mali”

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  1. Opening Game: Angola vs Mali « Out of Africa | Drakz News Station - January 13, 2010

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  2. Opening Game: Angola vs Mali « Out of Africa | Headlines Today - January 13, 2010

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