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AFCON 2023: Tunisia and Mali play to physically bruising draw

Action on Saturday from the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations ended with a 1-1 draw between Mali and Tunisia in a Group E match played in Korhogo. Lassine Sinayoko put Mali into the lead in the first half but by halftime parity was restored through Hamza Rafia who equalized for the North African nation, who now face a must win situation in their final Group E match against South Africa on Wednesday. Mali will face Namibia where they will look for a victory to secure first place.

Mali once again enjoyed the benefit of passionate support from the Malian community in Korhogo as well as a large amount of traveling supporters. An enthusiastic start from Les Aigles saw the West African nation take the lead in the 10th minute when Sinayoko collected a pass outside the Tunisian penalty area. The Auxerre striker burst past a Tunisian defender and fired a low shot past Tunisia goalkeeper Bechir Ben Saïd and in off the post.

But Tunisia, with their AFCON campaign on the verge of disaster, declared their intentions to fight on and leveled the match ten minutes later. A sequence of slick passing freed up space for attacking left back Ali Abdi on the flank and his low cross found the run of Rafia for a low shot that snuck under Mali keeper Djigui Diarra and just across the goal line.

From then on the match was a fierce fight between two teams who could not break each other down with the physios making regular appearances due to the combative play. After halftime the best opportunities for both teams came in quick succession around the eighty minute mark. Sinayoko was well set up from a cross by Mali captain and right back Hamari Traoré but got his finish all wrong, an opportunity that was followed by Tunisia’s best chance of the second half when substitute Sayfallah Ltaief received on the left wing and found his effort blocked by frantic Malian defending.

Highlights of the final match from Saturday are below.

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