African Cup of Nations – Disciplined Algeria down Mali
Algeria put in a gritty to performance to grab their first win of the African Cup of Nations with a 1-0 victory over Group A rivals Mali in Luanda.
Rafik Halliche headed the only goal of the game from a Karim Ziani freekick two minutes before halftime to give Algeria their first points of the competition.
The win lifts them joint top in the group with trhee points, equal with Malawi, who play Angola later on Thursday.
Mali had few chances to find the net themselves with Algeria keeper Fawzi Chaouchi forced to make only one save all match.
Both sides came into the game with something to prove having had mixed results in their opening encounters.
Algeria were looking to bounce back from a humiliating 3-0 reverse at the hands of Malawi while Mali were back in action after their stunning four-goal comeback in their opening 4-4 draw with Angola.
Mali made the running in the early exchanges but only had a shot into the side-netting from Mustapha Yatabare to show for their endeavour.
Algeria were slower out of the blocks but quickly gained in confidence as the game progressed and could have taken the lead in the 21st minute when Karim Matmour failed to connect with a cross from Karim Ziani when unmarked at the far post.
Matmour then turned provider for Ziani who tried his luck with a curling effort from outside the box that Mali keeper Soumbeyla Diakite did well to parry to safety.
The goal when it arrived was perhaps undeserved as Mali had enjoyed the better of possession in a cagey first half.
But Ziani’s floated freekick that found Halliche arriving unmarked in the middle of the box to head past Diakite was one of the few moments of real quality in the match.
Adama Tamboura forced a good save from Chaouchi early in the second half when he tried a shot from an outrageously tight angle that the keeper did well to push behind.
But Mali then failed to trouble the Algeria keeper until stoppage time when Chaouchi flapped at a cross from the left and almost dropped the ball at the feet of substitute Freddie Kanoute.
Algeria could have added to their first-half lead with two chances in quick succession as Nadir Belhadj came close to connecting with a cross from the left before Abdelkader Ghezzal heads a cross from the other side just over the bar.
Mali remain on one point at the foot of the group but a win in the final game against Malawi could still be enough to see them through to the knock-out stages.
Toby Davis / Eurosport