Mali booked a last eight spot at the West Africa Football Union (Wafu) Cup of Nations with a 3-1 win over Niger at the Stade Lat Dior in Thies, Senegal on Monday.
Issaka Samake, Moussa Kone and Ibourahima Sidibe scored to ensure Mali’s progression as Aziz Ibrahim Abdoul’s late goal was not enough to help Niger come back into the contest.
The result saw Mali setting up a quarter-final date with Sierra Leone, while Niger will meet Liberia in the Plate quarter-final.
It was Niger who started the match on the front foot with Victorien Adebayor, who however side-netted his shot just a minute into the match.
Mali immediately gathered themselves and positively responded to their opponents’ threat through a penalty converted by Samake in the third minute.
That was after Mamaye Coulibaly had charged into the box only to be fouled by Souley Salamoun Mahamadou, desperate to stop him resulting in the referee awarding the Eagles a penalty.
Niger attempted to hit back on a number of occasions in the first half and Adebayor was a constant pain in the Malian defence, who had to thank their goalkeeper for standing tall in preserving their lead.
But Mali were not outdone as they also pressed to double their advantage but Kone narrowly missed the target twice, once through a bicycle-kick.
Kone finally got it right just after the hour mark by heading in Coulibaly’s cross to put Mali firmly in the driving seat, before sailing further ahead through Sidibe who connected Amadou Camara’s pass on 67 minutes.
Niger attempted to stage a late comeback when Abdoul reduced arrears five minutes from time but Mali held on for the win.
Meanwhile, Laurent Magbi and Aboubacar Doumbia grabbed a brace each as Ivory Coast saw off Cape Verde Islands 4-1 at the Stade Lat Dior la.
In what is the biggest win of the tournament so far, Magbi struck his double in the first half while Doumbia also starred after the break with two goals of his own.
The Elephants will now play Togo in the quarter-finals of the tournament and Cape Verde will tussle against Nigeria in the Plate quarter-final.
Ivory Coast’s huge victory was always coming with Magbi stepping up to convert from the penalty spot six minutes into the game after he had been fouled inside the box by Mikael Tavares.
Hernani Cardoso nearly hit back for Cape Verde from a free kick in the 19th minute but closely missed the target.
Magbi then completed his brace four minutes later when he punished the Cape Verde goalkeeper, who had failed to cut a cross from the left-wing.
The Blue Sharks goalkeeper then made amends by denying Magbi a hat-trick with a fine save 10 minutes before the break.
Cape Verde’s comeback attempts were then frustrated by Doumbia, who shrugged off some tussles inside the box to score Ivory Coast’s third goal eight minutes after the interval.
But the islanders reduced the deficit on the hour mark through Nono Rolha who fired in from the corner kick, before Doumbia killed the match as a contest in injury time to also seal his double.