Mali produced a mouth-watering performance as they beat Niger 3-1 in game five of the 2019 WAFU Cup of Nations at the Stade Lat Dior in Thies, Senegal on Monday.
Ironically, it was almost the perfect start for Niger with Victorien Adebayor breaking through on goal in the opening minute, but he struck the side-netting with just the keeper to beat.
A minute later Mali were gifted a chance to take the lead when Mamaye Coulibaly was pulled down inside the box by Souley Salamoun Mahamadou and the referee pointed to the penalty spot.
Issaka Samake stepped up for Mali and made no mistake as he sent the keeper the wrong way, 1-0.
It was a fast-flowing game with the action switching from end to end at a rapid pace, but the next significant chance came from a 22-yard set piece with Niger's Adebayor seeing his effort brilliantly saved by the Malian keeper.
On the half-hour mark the Niger keeper almost made a costly mistake when he spilled the ball into the path of attacker Moussa Kone, but he toe-poked his effort inches wide from close range.
The goal of the tournament nearly came in the 40th minute when Mali's Kone tried an audacious overhead-kick from 14-yards out after meeting a right-wing cross, but the attempt went narrowly wide and the half ended 1-0 in favour of Mali.
It was a slow start to the second 45, but the match sprang into life in the 63rd minute when some dazzling footwork down the left by Coulibaly saw him beat two defenders before crossing for Kone who had an easy tap-in header from only a couple of yards out for 2-0.
Four minutes later Mali found their third goal when substitute Amadou Camara drove into the box from the left and squared for Ibourahima Sidibe to side-foot home from ten-yard out, 3-0.
Niger did manage to pull a goal back in the 85th minute courtesy of a clinical 14-yard finish from Aziz Ibrahim Abdoul to make the final scoreline 3-1.
Mali will now progress into the quarterfinals of the Cup competition where they will play Sierra Leone on Oct. 6, while Niger will take part in the Plate quarterfinals against Liberia on the same day.