After Friday’s action-packed fixture line-up, the second round of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) quarter-finals also delivered plenty of drama and talking points, particularly in the first match between Mali and Ivory Coast.
The host nation secured a place in the semi-final courtesy of a highly controversial victory over Mali, while South Africa beat Cape Verde in a dramatic penalty shoot-out.
Mali 1-2 Ivory Coast (AET)
Double last-gasp euphoria saw nine-men Ivory Coast seal a remarkable come-from-behind 2-1 victory to dump Mali out of the tournament in front of a raucous home crowd.
The fiercely contested match delivered plenty of drama as the host nation scored in the final minute of regulation time before sealing a place in the semi-finals with another last-minute strike in extra time despite their numerical inferiority.
A fast start from Mali threatened to put Ivory Coast to the sword in the opening exchange when referee Mohamed Adel denied the Eagles a penalty after Odilon Kossounou’s outstretched arm blocked Amadou Haidara’s shot at close range.
After a four-minute review, VAR upheld the on-field decision, with Haidara deemed to be offside in the build-up to the incident. However, Mali would not be denied at the second time of asking with Kossounou the culprit once again.
The Bayer Leverkusen man was penalised for a foul on Lassine Sinayoko and Mali were handed a guilt-edged chance to take the lead from the spot but Adama Traore’s effort was expertly saved by Yahia Fofana.
Kossounou was yellow-carded for the penalty foul. But his evening went from bad to worse as he was dismissed for a second bookable offence with half-time approaching after another clumsy tackle.
Ivory Coast withstood a late first-half barrage from Mali to head into the interval level on the scoreboard.
Mali monopolised possession after the break, but a couple of half-time changes and a pragmatic approach from the host nation made them difficult to break down.
It was going to take something extraordinary to get past the dogged Ivory Coast backline, and Nene Dorgeles stepped up for Mali, rifling an unstoppable long-range effort into the top right corner.
Ivory Coast have spent the bulk of their AFCON title charge flirting with elimination on home soil, and they were on the brink of an exit once again, needing a desperate final push to salvage their campaign despite a numerical inferiority.
Clear-cut chances were at a premium, and it appeared their luck had run out until Brighton & Hove Albion forward Simon Adingra pounced on a loose ball in the Mali area and dispatched clinically, sending the tie into extra time.
There were tired legs all over the pitch, but the additional 30 minutes saw an identical level of intensity from both sides as the previous 90. However, momentum favoured Ivory Coast.
Sebastien Haller first came close, crashing a header on the woodwork before a sublime flick from Oumar Diakite won the game for Ivory Coast, sending the fans into a frenzy.
Diakite had previously been booked and was sent off in the final minutes for taking off his shirt after scoring the winning goal.
Mali pushed on for a late equaliser, and the most shocking incident occurred in the final minutes when they were denied a chance to take a last-minute corner before the referee ended the game.
The referee’s decision left many people bewildered, especially the Malians, who couldn’t fathom why they weren’t allowed to take a potentially match-defining corner.
Tempers flared, and a brawl ensued after the final whistle as the Malians confronted the referee. The ugly scenes saw Hamari Traore brandished a red card for violent conduct.
The shocking scenes will have tongues wagging for a while, and Mali won’t let the decision go anytime soon. But ultimately, Ivory Coast will face the Democratic Republic of Congo for a slot in the showpiece event.
Cape Verde 0-0 South Africa (1-2 on penalties)
Ronwen Williams will be remembered as a South African cult hero following a spectacular performance that saw the 2010 World Cup hosts dump out Cape Verde.
Williams made four remarkable saves in a dramatic penalty shoot-out to earn South Africa a place in the semi-finals for the first time in over two decades.
After eliminating pre-tournament favourites and highest-ranked African nation Morocco in the last 16, South Africa were eager to further their AFCON ambitions against a high-flying Cape Verde.
However, a drab first-half encounter saw only one shot hit the target, coming from South Africa’s Teboho Mokoena, who tested Cape Verde’s Vozinha from range.
A refreshing second half saw both sides up the ante, and an end-to-end contest ensued. But clear-cut chances remained at a premium, with neither side looking particularly dangerous on the attack.
Cape Verde poured forward in the closing stages of regulation time and came close to breaking the deadlock as Williams denied Gilson with a spectacular fingertip save but was also aided by the woodwork.
Neither side could find an elusive winner, sending the game into extra time. But it was South Africa who kicked off the additional 30 minutes with renewed vigour.
Vozinha made himself big to deny Mihlali Mayambela from close range before bettering that save to thwart a header from Evidence Makgopa, ensuring both sides participate in the lottery of a penalty shoot-out.
South Africa stopper Williams stole the spotlight, becoming the first goalkeeper at this year’s AFCON to save a penalty. He made four saves, including three in a row to seal Bafana Bafana’s place in the semi-finals.
Four teams are set to go head to head for a place in the final and a chance to claim the continent’s holy grail.
Nigeria will take on South Africa, while Ivory Coast will have one eye on a place in the final for the first time since their 2015 triumph.
How to watch?
All AFCON games are broadcast live on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom. Numerous other live football streaming websites will allow you to watch the tournament in real time regardless of your location.
- Man United fans in uproar as Old Trafford relocation plans spark outrage
- Liverpool to make one last attempt to bring back Michael Edwards to lead post-Klopp rebuild
- Arsenal shortlist four strikers to replace injury-prone Gabriel Jesus
- Premier League reveal April fixture schedule for TV coverage
- Simone Inzaghi wanted by Liverpool, Man United & Chelsea – but who’s the best fit?
- Bowen hat-trick hands West Ham first win of 2024, eases pressure on Moyes
- Chelsea eye Amorim to replace Pochettino this summer
- Analysis: Liverpool did all they could to win the League Cup – and ultimately triumphed
- Everton ten-point deduction reduced to six
- Jurgen Klopp could win the quadruple this season and still not be Liverpool’s best-ever manager