Angola 4-4 Mali
By Stephen Fottrell
Flavio fired Angola into the lead with two first half goals
Mali pulled off a stunning fightback to draw 4-4 with Angola after trailing 4-0 with 11 minutes left in the opening game of the Africa Cup of Nations.
The hosts went 2-0 up in the first half thanks to two headers from striker Flavio, while Gilberto and Manucho scored a penalty each to make it four.
But Mali grabbed one back when Seydou Keita stabbed home from close range.
Frederic Kanoute headed in a second before Keita and Mustapha Yatabare scored in injury time in Luanda.
The first ever match at the 11 November Stadium provided a thrilling start to a Nations Cup that had been overshadowed by Friday’s gun attack on the Togolese team, who have been withdrawn by their government and flown home.
But the Palancas Negras’ late collapse will infuriate their Portuguese coach Manuel Jose, who saw his team throw away what seemed a certain three points.
“This draw tasted like a defeat to me, this is one of the most bitter pills I’ve ever had to swallow in all the matches of my long career,” said Jose.
I’ve got mixed feelings, I’m happy with a draw but upset with my team
Mali coach Stephen Keshi
“We were supposed to win this game but we gave up at the end.
“Football in Africa is learning on the road, we have the skills but we were a little naive.
“It makes the next match a little more complicated. The public deserved a win.”
After an impeccably observed minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the attack on the Togo team, Angola dominated for most of the game.
Flavio put Angola in front with a diving header after 36 minutes and added a second six minutes later from close range off defender Mabina’s cross.
Mali conceded two spot kicks towards the end of the second half, coolly dispatched by Gilberto and former Manchester United and Hull striker Manucho.
Many home fans left the stadium early celebrating their team’s four-goal advantage, but the Angolan team became far too casual, and they gifted time and space to the Malians.
Barcelona midfielder Keita bundled home what looked to be merely a consolation following a goalmouth scramble 11 minutes from time.
But a previously anonymous Kanoute then added a second to give the Malians hope.
Keita and Yatabare then finished two more close-range efforts in injury time to secure an astonishing draw for Stephen Keshi’s team.
Keshi, who lifted the title with Nigeria as a player in the 1990s, said: “It was a little difficult to believe we might come back. I’ve got mixed feelings, I’m happy with a draw but upset with my team.”
Keita added: “I just couldn’t imagine we could fight back like that.
“We were bad in the first half, mentally we weren’t really at the races.
“It’s good for us mentally, our confidence, but we have to be careful to not make too many mistakes. There is a lot to correct before the next match.”