Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Mali set up South Africa showdown
Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Mali earn a draw against DR Congo to seal quarter-final showdown with hosts South Africa
Mahamadou Samassa earned Mali a draw and a place in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals against the Democratic Republic of Congo in Durban.
Samassa cancelled out Dieumerci Mbokani’s early penalty to send the Eagles into the last eight and keep the dream of their first Afcon title alive.
Former Newcastle United and Portsmouth showman Lomana LuaLua struck the post after 20 seconds, before ex-Liverpool midfielder Momo Sissoko brought down Yves Diba in the box.
Anderlecht’s Belgian player of the year Mbokani stepped up to slot into the top right hand corner and give DR Congo the perfect start.
Sissoko looked to make amends after five minutes, shooting from 20 yards but safely into the hands of eccentric Congolese goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba.
Mali struck back on 14 minutes through Samassa, poking home from eight yards after some neat work on the left from Adama Tamboura.
Referee Djamel Haimoudi was called into action again after 25 minutes, as LuaLua went down in the area, but he waved away the penalty appeals.
And West Ham’s Modibo Maiga could have put Mali ahead before the break, heading ex-Barcelona man Seydou Keita’s cross over the bar.
Samba Sow danced past two defenders on the hour mark and collided with Mpeko Issama, but his penalty claims were dismissed.
Minutes later Sow fed Samassa, who shot from 20 yards – the effort was tame but Kidiaba almost spilled into the corner.
Up the other end, West Bromwich Albion’s Youssouf Mulumbu almost netted on 68 minutes, forcing Mali keeper Mamadou Samassa to tip his low shot past the post.
With 10 minutes left, Keita’s corner was met at the back post by substitute Kalilou Traore, but his header flashed wide.
And fellow substitute Cheick Tidiane Diabate was played in behind The Leopards’ back four soon after, only to round the Kidiaba and strike the post.
Keita almost secured all three points late on, but Kidiaba rushed out and saved well with his feet.
Mali will face Group A winners and hosts South Africa back in Durban on Saturday, as they look to improve on last year’s third-place finish.