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Catastrophic five minute stretch condemns Mali to home defeat against Tunisia

The circumstances were set up well for Mali to take a leap towards qualifying for their first ever FIFA World Cup but a defensive collapse at the end of the first half led to a 1-0 home defeat for Les Aigles against Tunisia in Bamako. Young center back Moussa Sissako overhit a back pass past his own goalkeeper to give Tunisia the lead before fouling to deny a clear goal scoring opportunity four minutes later, resulting in a red card that the hosts could not recover from. Mali will need to win in the return leg in the Tunisian capital of Tunis on Tuesday to revive their World Cup hopes.

Malians turned out in droves to boost their team towards the objective and Les Aigles attempted to take control of the match. Veteran forward Abdoulay Diaby provided the most dangerous threat to the Tunisian goal, weaving around three defenders before his low shot was handled by Tunisia keeper Bechir Ben Saïd. Just before the half hour mark, Diaby put in a dangerous low cross from the right wing that skipped through for a first time shot that curled just wide of Ben Saïd’s goal.

However, the shocking mistake from Sissako came in the 36th minute to give Tunisia a lead to defend. The Malian defense passed the ball around and under a bit of pressure, the Standard Liège center back rushed his pass back to goalkeeper Ibrahim Mounkoro, overhitting the ball past the TP Mazembe shot stopper to stun the home crowd into silence.

The visibly distraught young defender was encouraged by his teammates but only minutes later would be on the end of more misfortune. A through ball from the midfield sent Tunisia striker Seifeddine Jaziri in on goal with Sissako trailing and their feet got tangled up just outside the penalty area. With Jaziri having a clear path to goal, the referee had no choice but to give a straight red card to Sissako for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity and the hosts were now a player down.

From then on Tunisia had little aspirations of finding another goal and were content to bring numbers back and attempt to score on the counter as Mali attempted to push forward. Mali caused some trouble but their numerical disadvantage made it difficult to break down the Carthage Eagles. Halftime substitute Adama Malouda Traoré was the most threatening player for Mali, cutting inside from the right wing to blast a shot just wide with Ben Saïd beaten in the 52nd minute.

The effort from Traoré was the closest Mali came to leveling and Tunisia will now be confident of finishing the job at home despite a couple of key injuries in their team. Highlights are below.

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