MALI are on top of Group B of the 29th Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) soccer tournament after defeating Niger 1-0 in the second game at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium yesterday.
Mali captain Keita Seydou scored the only goal of the match in the 76th minute after picking up a loose ball that was dropped by Niger goalkeeper Daouda Kassaly.
Mali dominated the first part of the match with accurate passes in the midfield, but their strikers failed to convert those chances into goals.
The first half started slowly, with both teams trying to settle down, but Niger showed character and pushed their players forward in search of an opening goal.
Niger are participating in Afcon for the second time in their soccer history after they made their debut in last year's tournament. The game was evenly balanced in the first 20 minutes, with both teams working hard to get a goal, but the strikers were not aggressive enough in front of the goals.
Mali dominated possession in the first half, but they just could not get the breakthrough.
The Niger team combined well in the midfield, but they were poor in feeding their strike force.
Niger came close to scoring but a header from their captain Ouwo Moussa Maazou went over the crossbar.
Boubacar Garba Issoufou was the first player to receive a yellow card after he tackled Mali's Mahamane.
Mali's influential skipper Seydou almost struck a second time when he sent in a ball which hit the woodwork.
After conceding the goal, Niger tried hard to search for an equaliser, but eventually ran out of time.