Kanoute downs Benin
Sevilla striker bags winner for Mali
By James Pearson. Last Updated: 21/01/08 11:16pm
Kanoute: Crucial penalty
Mali have kicked off their Africa Cup of Nations campaign with a slender 1-0 win over Benin.
The Eagles, who were favourites, were far from their best, but claimed the win thanks to Fredi Kanoute's second half penalty.
The first chance of the game fell to Seydou Keita, but his drive bounced just wide as Mali looked for an early goal.
While at the other end Mahamadou Sidibe spilled a cross, but Oumar Tchomogo could not keep his header down for Benin.
The deadlock was broken shortly after the interval when Kanoute slotted home from 12 yards out after Draman Traore was felled by Alain Gaspoz.
Mali went in search of a second, but Benin keeper Rachad Chitou did well to deny Mahamadou Diarra from distance.
Benin actually finished the stronger and only a combination of luck and good defending ensured Mali kicked off their Group B campaign with a win.
"It was our first game, we needed to feel our legs. It was quite warm too and the pitch was heavy so it was very hard," said Kanoute after the game.
"The most important thing was to win, but we know the hardest bit is to come. We've got to play two very good teams in Nigeria and Ivory Coast.
"I think we're going to struggle but if we play seriously like we did here we'll see."