Mali signalled their Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023 intent by comfortably defeating South Africa 2-0 in Tuesday’s Group E encounter.
In an open start, both sides traded blows before Sekou Koita and Lassine Sinayoko goals earned Mali victory in Korhogo.
Mali should have led on four minutes, but Lassine Sinayoko was denied by Ronwen Williams’ reflex save.
At the other end, Percy Tau forced a good stop from Djigui Diarra after racing through on goal.
Tau then blew the chance to give Bafana Bafana the lead, blazing a 19th-minute penalty over the bar after VAR awarded the spot-kick.
Mali cranked up the pressure after the break, Amadou Haidara clipping the bar before Hamari Traore bundled in the opener on the hour mark.
Five minutes later, Sinayoko drilled a low shot through Williams’ legs to double Mali’s advantage and put them firmly in control.
South Africa rallied later on, but Themba Zwane’s free-kick cannoned off the woodwork as they slipped to defeat.
The win sees Mali top Group E on goal difference from Namibia, who shocked Tunisia 1-0 earlier on Tuesday.
But on this evidence, a slick Mali side boasting quality like Yves Bissouma, Amadou Haidara and Koita have the tools to go far in Cote d’Ivoire.