“And the cry was no defenders” as Mali launched a 13 minute goal avalanche that hijacked Angola’s seemingly unassailable lead and sparked mass celebration amongst the Eagles faithful.
Injury time strikes from Seydou Keita and Mustapha Yatabare helped Mali restore parity from four goals down and record possibly the most remarkable recovery in modern day international football.
- Malian delight
The tournament began amongst a sombre atmosphere after the events that led to Togo’s withdrawal. However, the hosts started the match brightly until they were forced into an early substitution, with Djalma Campos replacing the injured Dede on 23 minutes.
Twelve minutes later and the Black Antelopes were in front. Manucho was fouled just outside the penalty area on the left. Gilberto sought out Flavio from the ensuing free-kick, instead of going for goal, and his cross was powerfully met by the Al-Shabab striker to leave Mahamadou Sidibe stranded.
The Malians were rocked and it was 2-0 within five minutes when Mabina found an unmarked Flavio with his cross from the right for a second headed goal.
Half-time couldn’t arrive quick enough for the stunned Eagles. And Stephen Keshi’s men began the second period with purpose as two chances fell in quick succession to Mahamadou Diarra and Frederic Kanoute, neither of whom could convert.
Shortly after and Mali were three down when Gilberto was fouled in the box by Mamadou Bagayoko after a fine counter-attack. The Al-Ahly man took the kick himself and blasted the ball home twice, after he was forced to re-take the initial spot-kick due to encroachment.
Seven minutes later and Keita, who had replaced Modibo Maiga on 35 minutes, made a clumsy challenge on Gilberto in the box and the referee handed Angola the opportunity to make it four.
- Angola celebrate
This time Manucho sent Sidibe the wrong way to send the 11 November Stadium into ecstasy – blissfully unaware of the capitulation they were about to witness.
The recovery commenced with 11 minutes left on the clock when a corner from the left was fumbled by Carlos Fernandes and eventually poked home by Keita after a goalmouth scramble.
Two minutes remaining and Mali put together their best move of the match. Neat passing in midfield eventually saw the ball find its way to Adama Tamboura, whose decent cross was expertly headed past the keeper by Kanoute.
The hosts were now visibly nervous and when the fourth official signalled four minutes of injury time those nerves turned into physical shakes as the Angolan defence went missing.
Three minutes into injury time and Keita completed his brace as he placed a volley across the keeper and into the far side of the net to reduce the arrears to 4-3.
And then, just over a minute later, a Tamboura cross was volleyed goalwards, only to be parried straight to substitute, Yatabare, who smashed Mali level and sent his team into unbridled delirium.
Afterwards a shocked Keshi said, “It was a little difficult to believe we might come back. I’ve got mixed feelings, I’m happy with a draw but upset with my team.”
Mali play Algeria next on Thursday where they’ll hope a stronger defensive display may see them take control of Group A.
Angola: Carlos Fernandes; Rui Marques, Kali, Zuela, Mabina, Chara, Gilberto (82); Dede (Djalma 25), Stelvio; Flavio (Cabungula 84), Manucho.
Mali: Sidibe; Berthe, Soumare, Diamoutene, Tamboura, T Bakaye (Fane 57), M Diarra, Bagayoko (Yattabare 77), M Traore, Mobida (Keita 35), Kanoute.
Referee: Essam Abdel Fatah (Egypt)