Mali edged neighbors Guinea 1-0 in the west African derby at the Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday evening.
It was a case of history repeating itself as Mali also triumphed when both countries last clashed in the 2004 edition of the competition in Tunisia.
“We are very disappointed with this result. We were not lucky and that’s why I’m disappointed,” Guinea coach Michel Dussuyer said.
Mali coach Alain Giresse said it was important to win the opening game of the competition.
“It was important to start well and so three points was the best thing for us. We are satisfied,” the Frenchman said. “We controlled the first half, but thereafter we made some mistakes, and Guinea were good and had some possibilities to equalize.”
Against the run of play, Bakaye Traore opened the scoring for Mali on the half-hour mark with a fierce shot from outside the box off a loose ball.
Samba Diakite, who was making his international debut, as well as the skillful Modibo Maiga, were impressive for Mali.
For Guinea, Ibrahima Traore with his mesmerizing solo runs caught the eye, while the duel between Mali’s towering striker Tidiane Cheick Diabate and his equally imposing marker, 36-year-old veteran Bobo Balde, was also an interesting aspect of the clash.
Before Mali’s goal, Guinea enjoyed the upper hand in the exciting Group D match.
The attack swung from one end of the pitch to the other, with Guinea carving out the best chances to go ahead.
In the 17th minute, Guinea striker Ismael Bangoura was denied by Mali goalkeeper Soumaila Diakite, who did very well to dive full length to push away his goal-bound header.
Ten minutes later, Guinea again threatened when Alhassan Bangoura went on a solo run, before he let fly with a shot that crashed against the side netting as the noisy stadium erupted.
In the 34th minute, Ismael Bangoura again went clear, but Diakite used his body to great effect to deny him from inside the box.
Sadio Diallo was then booked for diving when he sped into the Mali box, before going down as if he had been hit with an axe.
On 40 minutes, Alhassan’s header off a corner missed the target, but not by much as Guinea continued to fight for an equalizing goal.
Guinea continued to press as the game wore on. Substitute Barry Ousmane missed a header inside the box in the 63rd minute, while Pascal Feindouno fired well off the mark from distance on 70 minutes.
At the other end, substitute Garra Dembele saw his cross-cum-shot scrambled for a corner by Guinea goalkeeper Naby Yattara.
Diakite saved a free-kick by Feindouno on 80 minutes as the Syli Stars threw everything at their neighbors, but the Mali defense held firm until the final whistle.