Mali produced three stunning goals as they thumped Africa Cup of Nations debutants Mauritania 4-1 on Monday, handing their neighbours a harsh lesson in their first ever match at the finals.
Abdoulaye Diaby blasted Mali in front and Moussa Marega converted a penalty to put them 2-0 ahead by halftime.
Adama Traore added a third before substituted by his namesake Adama Traore who then scored the fourth, both from outside the penalty area.
In between, El Hacen El Id made history by converting a penalty for Mauritania’s first ever goal at the tournament.
Mali, playing at their seventh successive finals, became the first team to score more than two goals in a match at the tournament and also produced arguably the best performance so far.
Mauritania began brightly but were let down by too many elementary mistakes. They completely messed up one free kick around 30 metres from goal, gifting possession to their opponents, and their first touches were often heavy.
Diaby broke the deadlock after collecting a pass around 30 metres from goal, shuffling past two defenders and firing a rising shot into the net from just outside the area.
The powerful Moussa Marega was a constant threat for Mali, and after being denied several times, finally got on the scoresheet with a penalty in the 45th minute after Hamari Traore was tripped by Mauritania goalkeeper Brahim Souleimane.
Mali continued to dominate after halftime and, 10 minutes after the re-start, Adama Traore slipped past a couple of defenders and beat Souleimane with a low shot from outside the area.
Mauritania kept pressing forward and were rewarded with a penalty which El Hacen El Id converted, prompting delirious celebrations amid the players and officials.
Those were cut short, however, when substitute Adama Traore curled in from 25 metres to complete the scoring in style.
Angola snatch draw
In Group E’s other encounter Monday, Angola salvaged a surprise but deserved 1-1 draw against an uninspired Tunisia after Djalma Campos cancelled out a Youssef Msakni penalty.
In a generally disappointing game, Tunisia went ahead against the run of play in the 34th minute but failed to build on the lead and paid the price when Djalma snapped a rebound in the 73rd minute.
The game was played in hot conditions, although a sea breeze made the temperature more bearable and it did not seem to unduly affect the players. The stadium was barely one quarter full with spectators scattered around the arena.
“It was a very difficult and demanding game … I think we played the best African team,” said Angola coach Srđjan Vasiljevic. “We had enormous difficulties in the preparation period but we faced a strong rival and got a good result.”
Tunisia went ahead with a penalty as Msakni found Sliti Naim who cut inside Salomao Paizo and was brought down by the Angolan’s clumsy lunge. There were few complaints from Angola and Msakni fired the spot kick into the roof of the net.
The North Africans, the second highest African team in the FIFA rankings, sat on their lead and Angola, back at the tournament after missing the previous two, took advantage.
Tunisia goalkeeper Farouk Ben Musthapha spilled a shot by Matheus and Djalma turned in the rebound.
Tunisia twice came close to a stoppage time winner as Wahbi Khazri prodded the ball wide after a free kick and Msakni sent a free shot wide of the post from the edge of the penalty area.
Two-time champions Ivory Coast off to winning start
Earlier Monday, striker Jonathan Kodjia struck 26 minutes from time to hand Ivory Coast a 1-0 win over South Africa as the two former champions kicked off their Africa Cup of Nations campaign.
Kodjia squandered several earlier chances before finally breaking the deadlock in the 64th minute of the Group D match at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo.
The goal was scored at the end of a swift move out of defence by the Ivorians.
Kodjia had been in a similar position in the first half but instead of placing the ball, he blasted it to allow South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams to come up with a brilliant close-range stop in the 32nd minute.
The Aston Villa striker was also twice set up with goal scoring chances in the opening 11 minutes, but both times failed to get a touch.
The Ivorians also struck the woodwork just after the half hour mark as Nicolas Pepe curled a left-footed effort on the crossbar.
Pepe had another set piece chance two minutes from time but Williams made a finger-tip stop to deny the Ivorians a second.
With the temperature in the stadium touching 36 degrees Celsius, it stifled the tempo of what was a largely scrappy affair.
South Africa, who won their only Cup of Nations title in 1996, were unable to get their short passing game going and only had one half chance which captain Thulani Hlatshwayo headed wide of goal.
Two-time winners Ivory Coast join Morocco, who edged Namibia with a last gasp goal on Sunday, at the top of the group standings.