DURBAN, South Africa (AP) – Mali set up an African Cup of Nations quarterfinal against host South Africa by holding Congo to a 1-1 draw Monday in their last group match at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
With Ghana winning its game against Niger in Port Elizabeth 3-0 to top Group B, a draw was all Mali needed to secure second spot and knock Congo out.
After a furious start to the match that saw both sides score in the opening 14 minutes, the Eagles were able to stifle their opponents to a sufficient extent in a foul-ridden game.
Congo striker Dieumerci Mbokani opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the opening minutes, only for Mahamadou Samassa to cancel the goal out in the 14th.
A good opening minute for Congo saw Lomana LuaLua hit the post after just 20 seconds, before the Leopards earned a penalty just 15 seconds later when Mohamed Sissoko brought down Yves Ilunga just inside the area.
Dieumerci Mbokani stepped up to convert the spot kick and allow Congo goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba to bring out his trademark celebration that became famous in the team's 2-2 draw with Ghana earlier in the tournament.
However, Mali quickly equalized when a poor clearance allowed Adama Tamboura to race to the byline before cutting the ball back for Mahamadou Samassa to equalize.
The rest of the first half lacked clear-cut chances, forcing Congo coach Claude Le Roy to gamble at the break as he replaced LuaLua with the injury-troubled forward Tresor Mputu.
Mputu made a bright start, and Youssouf Mulumbu nearly supplied the goal that Congo needed when he forced a fingertip save from Mali goalkeeper Mahamadou Samassa in the 69th minute.
Yet it was Mali which looked the more likely to score late on, with both Kalilou Traore and Cheick Diabate shaving the post within a minute of each other.
The draw meant Mali finished with four points, and will take on South Africa at the same venue on Saturday.