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2023 U-23 Afcon: Mali stage comeback to beat Gabon

Spectators attending the clash between Mali and Gabon at the 2023 U-23 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) on Sunday barely had time to settle before the scoreboard underwent a dramatic transformation.

In the 3rd minute of the Group B fixture at the Ibn Batouta Stadium in Tangier, the referee awarded Gabon a penalty following a foul inside the box.

Emmanuel Ovono confidently faced Mali goalkeeper Lassine Diarra and made no mistake, giving the U-23 Panthers a 1-0 lead.

However, that goal ignited a fierce response from Mali, who established their presence in Gabon’s territory. Under pressure, goalkeeper François Junior Bekale committed a serious foul, conceding a penalty to the Malians. Mamadou Sangaré equalized the scoreline, making it 1-1.

Shortly before halftime, Sangaré’s teammate Cheickna Doumbia emulated his success, granting Mali an advantage just minutes before the break.

It’s worth noting that the Gabon shot-stopper – Junior Bekale – got sent off at the end of the first half.

In the 60th minute, Badra Alou Diallo made his first substitutions, bringing on Coli Saco and Alassane Tamboura, who injected a fresh impetus into the struggling Mali team in the second half.

The coaching decisions proved to be a winning formula. Just when it seemed the match was heading for a 2-2 draw, Alassane Tamboura, perfectly assisted by Coli Saco, ruthlessly beat Gabon goalkeeper securing a 3-1 victory for Mali’s promising team.

Gabon, making their return to the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations since their triumph in the inaugural edition in Morocco in 2011, suffered a defeat.

However, Saturnin Ibela Ignambi’s squad will have the opportunity to redeem themselves on Wednesday when they face Niger. Meanwhile, Mali will face Egypt in their next fixture.


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