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Last Updated: Friday, 25 January 2008, 22:01 GMT
Group B results

By Ben Wyatt

Obafemi Martins (left) battles with Mahamadou Diarra (right)
Obafemi Martins (left) battles with Mahamadou Diarra (right)
Nigeria's Africa Cup of Nations' fate is in the hands of their Group B rivals after the Super Eagles could only draw with Mali in Sekondi.

Berti Vogts' team will have to beat eliminated Benin in their final match on Tuesday, and hope that Mali slip-up.

Fredi Kanoute fluffed Mali's best chance in injury time, shooting over in the box after Seydou Keita hit the bar.

Nigeria were restricted to half-chances with John Mikel Obi coming closest with a fizzing shot.

Yakubu Aiyegbeni had a goal ruled out for offside after 75 minutes, in a match that was full of tension.

The pressure was on the Super Eagles from the start as they faced an embarrassing Nations Cup exit if they were defeated by Mali, after Group B rivals Ivory Coast convincingly thrashed Benin earlier in the day.

German coach Berti Vogts made three changes to the best ranked side in Africa, bringing in Osaze Odemwingie (Lokomotiv Moscow), Obinna Nwaneri (Sion) and Obinna Nsofor (Chievo) for injured captain Nwankwo Kanu, Portsmouth's John Utaka and Onyekachi Apam from Nice.

But it was the Eagles of Mali who started the better of the two sides with full back Amadou Sidibe and Adama Tamboura providing dangerous service from the left wing to a lurking Kanoute.

Newcastle United's Obafemi Martins tested the reactions of Mahamadou Sidibe with a low shot from outside the area, but otherwise the Nigerians still seemed to lack the impetuous that had taken them to the semi-final stage of the last three tournaments.


With nearly half an hour gone the Super Eagles had only mustered half-chances and long shots, as the game became a battle of wills between the midfields marshalled by Mikel Obi and Mohamed Sissoko.

Driven on by the ever-present trumpet-playing supporters, the two sides were locked in a tactical stalemate, which though fascinating for the aficionado, failed to provide a spark.

Vogts replaced Martins with John Utaka to try and engineer a breakthrough on the restart, but it was Mali's Seydou Keita who forced a diving save from Austin Ejide first, before Kanoute went close again from 25 yards.

The Nigerian contingent was becoming increasingly anxious, especially as Mali had better possession in the final third.

Nigeria's mis-firing attack continued when Everton's Yakubu had a half-chance snuffed out on 55 minutes and Obinna Nsofor mis-hit from ten yards out.

It prompted Vogts to swap Odemwingie with Getafe's Ikechukwu Uche.

The game needed a flash of inspiration from one of the stars on the pitch, but to the dismay of an increasingly irritable crowd, the likes of Mahamdou Diarra and Mikel were all too quiet.

Uche snatched at a shot on the edge of the five-yard area with 20 minutes to go, exemplifying the fact that, as in the first half, the strikers from both sides were feeding off scraps.

There finally seemed light at the end of the tunnel for Nigerian fans, when Yakubu fired home a mis-hit cross from the right, only for the chance to be judged offside.

Keita then had Nigerian fans with their hearts in their mouths when he rattled the Super Eagles' cross bar with a twenty-five yard pile driver.

The game was finally coming to life with Mikel unleashing a shot that whistled past the post.

In the dying minutes Mali captain Diarra was given a yellow card which means he will miss the Eagles' crucial final Group B game against Ivory Coast.

The best chance of the game fell to Kanoute in the dying seconds of injury time when the Sevilla front man sent his shot skywards from ten yards out, despite being unmarked.

Nigeria: Ejide, Yobo, Taiwo, Nwaneri, Shittu, Obi, Olofinjana, Odemwingie (Uche 58), Obinna (Makinwa 84), Yakubu, Martins (Utaka 46).
Subs Not Used: Aiyenugbu, Enyeama, Afolabi, Apam, Emeghara, Eromoigbe, Etuhu, Okonkwo, Kanu.

Booked: Olofinjana.

Mali: Mahamadou Sidibe, Tamboura, Adama Coulibaly, Diamoutene, Amadou Sidibe (Dembele 86), Kante, Diarra, Keita, Mohamed Sissoko (Drissa Diakite 82), Kanoute, Dramane Traore (Diallo 74).
Subs Not Used: Soumalia Diakite, Oumar Sissoko, Moussa Coulibaly, Kone, Sammy Traore, Djibril Sidibe, Dissa, Mamady Sidibe, Toure.

Booked: Diarra.

Ref: El Abderrahim (Morrocco).

Mali draw leaves Vogts desperate
25 Jan 08 |  African
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