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Mali clinches top spot in Group F with routine victory over Mauritania

Mali are through to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations knockout stages as winners of Group F following their 2-0 victory over hapless Mauritania on Thursday. Massadio Haïdara scored within the opening ninety seconds and Ibrahima Koné doubled the lead with his third goal of the competition as Les Aigles faced little resistance from their already eliminated neighbors. Mali will face Equatorial Guinea next Wednesday for their Round of 16 matchup.

Slow starts have doomed Mauritania in the competition and this time the team was caught unprepared for a high-flying Malian attack. Just over a minute into the match Haïdara struck for the Eagles after Moussa Doumbia sent in a cross from the right wing that bounced through to the RC Lens left back, who bounced his first-time effort past goalkeeper Babacar Diop.

The tone was set and Mali continued to push forward with frequent attacks on Diop’s goal. To his credit, Diop was excellent on the day and prevented Mauritania from losing by a greater margin. Other than the occasional foray forward, al-Murabitun once again hardly threatened the opposition goalkeeper to make it a comfortable match for Les Aigles.

Soon after halftime it was the influential Doumbia who created Mali’s second goal to put the game beyond reach. The Stade Reims midfielder did excellently to sneak between two Mauritanian defenders in the penalty area and was taken down by Aly Abeid, leaving the referee with no choice but to point to the spot. Koné stepped up and blasted his spot kick by Diop, making him the first Malian to score in all three AFCON group stage games since great midfielder Seydou Keïta in 2013.

Mali should have had more but a combination of poor finishing and Diop kept the Eagles from expanding their lead. The closest Mauritania came was on Adama Ba’s free kick effort in the 62nd minute, but Mali coasted to the three points with their goal of holding onto top spot in Group F accomplished.

Highlights of the match are below.

2′- Massadio Haïdara puts Mali into an early lead

49′- Ibrahima Koné makes it three goals in three games from the penalty spot

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