Algeria dream still alive
Halliche's header enough to see off Mali
Last Updated: 14/01/10 7:11pm
A keenly contested affair
A closely fought affair in Cidadela saw Algeria keep alive their dream of African Cup of Nations glory as they edged past Mali 1-0.
Algeria's opening game in the tournament proved to be a disaster as they crumbled to a 3-0 defeat to Malawi.
But Rafik Halliche's header was enough to resurrect their hopes of progression as Mali struggled to replicate their stunning comeback against Angola in their Group A opener, which saw them come from 4-0 down to earn a 4-4 draw.
Mali enjoyed an early period of pressure and Mustapha Yatabare's second-minute free-kick caused problems in the Algerian defence but Mahamadou Diarra was unable to find a team-mate with his pull-back after beating Algeria keeper Faouzi Chaouchi to the loose ball.
But the Desert Foxes hit back and Karim Ziani's swerving, dipping cross almost caught out Soumaila Diakite in the Mali goal as it truck the top of the crossbar.
Yatabare went close at the other end as his long-range strike flew into the side netting.
Despite those early chances, the game was blighted by poor midfield play from both teams, with neither side capable of keeping possession long enough to create any genuine chances.
Abdelkader Ghezzal headed wide for Algeria after Hassan Yebda's threatening cross while Mali's best hope of a goal stemmed from the confusion that Yatabare's free-kicks caused their opponents.
Mali defender Bakary Soumare was then booked for an ill-timed challenge on Yacine Bezzaz and from the resulting set-piece Algeria took a 43rd-minute lead.
Ziani's curling delivery allowed defender Halliche to steal in between three defenders and beat the indecisive Diakite.
Conceding so close to the break saw Mali start the second half with more urgency about their play and Seydou Keita forced a fingertip save from Chaouchi from a tight angle, although he really should have pulled the ball back to one of his three team-mates in the box.
Yebda then tried his luck from long range for Algeria, forcing Diakite to scramble across his goal as the ball ran wide.
Eagles coach Stephen Keshi sent on Sevilla forward Fredi Kanoute as they sought an equaliser but it proved in vain as Algeria's defence, superbly marshalled by Halliche and Madjid Bougherra, dealt with everything that was thrown at them.
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