World: Africa Cup of Nations
FT
2 - 0
(0 - 0)
Mali
South Africa
H. Traoré (60), L. Sinayoko (66)
X P. Tau (19)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Haidara's Malian "Aigles" soar over South Africa to open AFCON with win

RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara and the Mali national football team kicked off their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations campaign with a 2-0 over South Africa on Tuesday evening.
Dark horse candidates for the 2023 AFCON title have gotten their tournament off to a winning start with a 2-0 win over South Africa at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on Tuesday evening. RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara - one of two Bundesliga professionals representing "Les Aigles" - put in an 87-minute-shift. Haidara's national team colleague Diade Samassekou of TSG 1899 Hoffenheim was not included in Erik Chelle's match-day squad.

The West Africans got off to an error-prone start and were lucky not to concede against Hugo Broos' "Bafana, Bafana" early. Haidara himself nearly gifted the South Africans a goal with an early failed clearance. The Malians did concede an early penalty, but Percy Tau smashed a 19th-minute spot kick over the bar. Tau spurned another opportunity before the first half was out. The match thus went into the tunnel with a, from Mali's perspective, a flattering 0-0 scoreline.

The favored "Eagles" played much better in the second half. The many traveling Malian supporters in the stand were given much to cheer about when their team got off to a furious start. Unfortunately, Haidara was unable to open the scoring himself. The RB-system academy man flashed over in the 49th. Two goals in quick succession nevertheless sealed the victory. Captain Hamari Traoré netted the 1-0 in the 60th. Striker Lassine Sinayoko added the second six minutes later.

Haidara finished the match with three efforts on target. Despite his mishaps on both sides of the ball, the 25-year-old involved himself strongly in most attack charges and completed 85 percent of his 33 played passes. Haidara split the difference on his eight direct ground duels, winning one of his three contests in the air. He received an appreciate round of applause from the crowd when being subbed off for Wolverhampton midfielder Boubacar Traoré in the 87th.

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