Ghana’s defender Jerry Akaminko (right), vies for the ball with Democratic Republic of Congo’s midfielder Tresor Mputu during their 2013 African Cup of Nations
Keita fires Mali past Niger DR Congo hold Ghana 2-2

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa, Jan 20, (AFP): Mali denied determined Niger a first point at the Africa Cup of Nations when skipper Seydou Keita scored with six minutes left to earn a laboured 1-0 win.
Niger goalkeeper Daouda Kassaly failed to deal with a high ball into his area and Keita slid home the match-winner in the 84th minute.
This was seven minutes after the former Barcelona ‘super sub’ had seen his left-foot shot from the edge of the box come back off the crossbar.
It was looking like the second game in Group B would end without any goals before Keita popped up to give his troubled country something to cheer.
Niger were content to soak up pressure and relied on long balls to launch counter attacks, using skipper Moussa Maazou on the right flank.
Defender Mahamadou N’diaye saw his header on 21 minutes come close and nine minutes later Kassaly fumbled another aerial ball, but Cheick Diarra could not control the loose ball in front of an empty net.
Mahamane Traore, who missed last year’s tournament due to injury, fired a shot from distance in the 38th minute which just missed the target.
Niger’s best first-half chance was from a goalmouth scramble during which striker Issa Modibo suffered a head injury as Mali goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa did well to block a Kofi Dankwa shot inside the six-yard box.
In the 53rd minute, Kassaly tipped Keita’s shot away for a corner and Samassa dived bravely at the feet of Modibo to foil the Nigerien.
Maazou rose above the Mali defence after 73 minutes only for his header to sail over and two minutes later a solo run also failed to break the deadlock.
Favoured Ghana were held to a 2-2 draw by fighting DR Congo Sunday in the opening Group B match at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
The Congolese Leopards, who have been embroiled in squabbles over bonuses ahead of the match, showed great character to come from two goals down and take a point.
Emmanuel Agyeman Badu gave the Black Stars the lead, and scored the first goal of this tournament, in the 40th minute when he tapped home after a well-worked move involving Kwadwo Asamoah.
Juventus star Asamoah doubled Ghana’s lead four minutes after half-time when he headed home a corner taken by Mubarak Wakaso.
Skipper Tresor Mputu pulled a goal back for the Congolese in the 53rd minute after being put through by Cedric Makiadi.
Dieumerci Mbokani drew the Congolese level in the 68th minute by converting a penalty kick after he was fouled by Jerry Akaminko.
“This match was a great advertisement for African football,” said DR Congo coach Claude le Roy.
“I’m proud of my players. They have great quality and they showed it by coming back to a high-level competition like the Africa Cup after a seven-year absence.
“We deserved this result after all the problems we had and I hope that it will get the whole country behind the team now.”
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah said: “I knew this match would not be easy, but it was unfortunate we did not win our first game.
“We relaxed and we suffered from some tactical indiscipline which we must correct in our next game.”
The small, noisy crowd at the 45,000-seat Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium were treated to an open, entertaining match.
Moments before Mbokani equalised, substitute Rabiu Mohammed could have extended the Black Stars’ lead, but he hesitated when through on goal and the Leopards cleared the danger.
Congo goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba scrambled a powerful Asamoah Gyan shot for corner in the 70th minute and, at the other end, midfielder Youssuf Mulumbu was denied by a fine diving save from goalkeeper Fatau Dauda.
The first half was also packed with chances for both teams.
Ghana took the game to DR Congo from the kick-off when Christian Atsu delivered a cross from the left which was cleared for a corner.
In a frantic start by both teams, DRC also attacked and Mputu set up Lomana Lua Lua inside the Ghana box in the 13th minute, but the crossbar denied the veteran striker.
Moments later, the Leopards threatened again when Mboakani cut the ball back only for Mputu’s shot to fly over.
Ghana skipper Gyan should have scored on the half-hour mark after being sent clear by Derek Boateng, but his tame shot finished well off target.

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