Alassane Diallo’s 75th minute goal was just enough for Mali to beat Zambia in their Group B opener on Monday at the Caroline Faye Stadium in M’bour.
Midfielder Diallo finished off a well-rehearsed free-kick when Souleymane Diarra set him up with a shot that caught Zambia Keeper Mangani Banda flat footed.
Mali was had the better of the match with frequent scoring opportunities but managed to convert only one that won the match for them. The Eaglets now have maximum points just as Ghana who beat South Africa 2-0 in the first Group B match. Ghana’s Black Satellites lead the Group having scored a goal more than the Eaglets.
Both teams restarted the match with fast counter-attacking play only for the Malians to dominate possession whilst the Zambians were left chasing their shadows. Lubambo Musonda saw his header in the 15th minute from a Charles Zulu pass, missed the target in one of the few chances registered by Zambia.
Souleymane Diarra was a delight to watch and his partnership with Malick Toure troubled the Zambian defence so much and consequently Diarra fired a low shot that strolled wide as his side’s best attempt at goal of the half.
In the first half, the Junior Chipolopolo was suffered an injury blow as Musonda had to be replaced by Patson Daka..
After a goalless first half, both teams came into the second half with renewed vigour break the deadlock. Mali mounted attack upon attack and as a result a three-man move involving Diarra, Saliou Guindo and Youssouf Kone saw Diarra brought down just outside the penalty. The referee awarded a free-kick which produced the only goal of the match as Kone set up Diallo who struck a powerful shot that swooped past Zambia keeper Banda into the net.
Mali will next play South Africa on Thursday, 12 March 2015 whilst Zambia takes on Ghana both at the Caroline Faye Stadium in M’bour.
Coach Fanyeri Diarra, Mali
I’m happy we won. Victory in the first game is important since it helps you to tackle the other matches. We met a team that is strong to beat and it is essential that we got the three points. I knew it was not going to be easy against Zambia. The three points will take pressure off us for the next game. Zambia did very well but luck was on our side.
Coach Hector Chilombo, Zambia
Being the first game, I would have liked to win, but we lost. We played well and did not create a lot of chances. We lost but we are not out. I’m happy for my boys, because they have shown that they can improve. We will remain focus and work harder in the next game. We have to recover and win our next game against Ghana. The tournament is on and we will fight on.
Spencer Sautu, Midfielder Zambia
It is a pity that we couldn’t take our chances. It is a learning process and we have learnt our mistakes. They (Mali) had one opportunity and they scored from it. We hope to take our chances in our next game.