Equatorial Guinea’s fairytale run at the Africa Cup of Nations continued as they sealed a dramatic 6-5 penalty shootout victory over Mali in Limbe to book their place in the quarter-finals of the tournament.
Mohammed Magassouba’s Mali side could’ve had the chance to take the lead in the 39th minute as the referee pointed to the spot after Moussa Doumbia was body-checked in the box by Josete Miranda, but the former went down softly. The decision was overturned shortly after a VAR check.
Mali had the best chance of the game in the 57th minute, but Mohamed Camara blazed his effort well over the bar from inside the penalty area following an Yves Bissouma cut-back.
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The two sides could not be separated after 90 minutes despite Equatorial Guinea’s attacking output towards the end of the regular period, and it was more of the same in extra-time.
Eventually, Falaye Sacko’s crucial spot-kick was saved by Jesus Owono to break Malian hearts and reward Equatorial Guinea with a tie against Senegal in the last eight.
TALKING POINT - An enthralling penalty shootout results in a huge shock
What a crescendo to a fascinating penalty shootout, which was the second one of the day following Egypt's success over Ivory Coast.
It all went horribly wrong at the beginning for Equatorial Guinea, as Emilio Nsue lashed his the opening effort over the bar. However, Mali did not do themselves any favours either as misses by Massadio Haidara and Hamari Traore put Dani Guindos' side on the brink of making history. But, the tide turned again as Pablo Ganet's kick to win it was saved by Mali's Ibrahim Mounkoro.
Eventually, after six perfect penalties from both sides after Ganet's miss, Jesus Owono once again proved to be the hero for his country with his second save of the shootout. The 20-year-old stopper dived low to his right to deny Falaye Sacko and the celebrations began for Equatorial Guinea.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH - Saul Coco
The Equatorial Guinea centre-half was outstanding today, and the Player of the Match accolade is richly deserved.
Despite his nation being under pressure for the majority of the game, the 22-year-old was a key reason why Equatorial Guinea were able to keep a clean sheet in regulation time.
Coco won three aerial duels, won two tackles, and made one successful dribble. He also scored in the penalty shootout, which as a defender, is always a positive.
Mali: Mounkoro 6, H. Traore 7, M. Haidara 7, Kouyate 7, A. Haidara 7, Doumbia 7, A. Traore 7, Sacko 6, Kone 6, Bissouma 6, Camara 7. Subs: Dieng 6, Djenepo 6, Traore 7, Toure 6.
Equatorial Guinea: Owono 7, Ndong 7, Coco 8, Obiang 6, Akapo 7, Salvador 6, Ganet 6, Machin 6, Miranda 6, Hanza 6, Bikoro 6. Subs: Nsue 5, Eneme 6, Buyla 7, Belima 6.
39’ - PENALTY DECISION OVERTURNED! A very dubious call. Doumbia runs through and is in on goal, but he is off balance and looks to already be going down - before making the most of a body check from Miranda and hitting the turf! The referee points to the spot! After being told by the VAR to rethink it and look at the monitor, the match official overturns his decision.
57’ - WHAT A CHANCE! A glorious chance for Mali goes begging. Bissouma is threaded in on the edge of the box, before driving forward with the ball. He does well to check back and feed in Mohamed Camara in the centre of the 18-yard box but he blasts his effort over the bar!
96’ - PENALTY SHOUT! Nsue goes down just inside the box after he is pulled down by Kouyate! VAR dismisses Equatorial Guinea's claims after a quick check.The attacker did well to play a one-two out on the left, before driving with the ball at the edge of the box after receiving back the ball and getting pulled.
- There were 23 shots in 120 minutes of play, but only two of them were on target, the lowest number recorded in a game at AFCON 2021.
- Equatorial Guinea (114th in the FIFA rankings) make their first quarter-final in the Africa Cup of Nations in just their third ever tournament appearance.
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