Classy Mali power past Kiwis

Classy Mali power past Kiwis

In an exhibition of speed and strength, Mali outclassed New Zealand 3-1 to book their place in the pre-quarterfinals of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Thursday

For both Mali, who now have six points, and New Zealand it was a crucial Group B clash. With one point, New Zealand’s campaign is over.

Mali were in a different league altogether this day. They minimised the gaps in the field and crafted fluent moves with short passes. New Zealand were troubled by their persistent forays and their attempt to tightly mark Mali didn’t work either. The African country, with speedy bursts and ball skills, comfortably dominated the midfield and kept the black shirts backline on their toes.

For Mali, Salam Jiddou (18th minute), Djemoussa Traore (45th) and, Lassana N’Diaye (82nd) were the scorers. They were exceptional as they repeatedly cut through the flanks to keep the New Zealand defence guessing. Substitute Charles Spragg (72nd minute) pulled one back for New Zealand.

All-round play

In the first half, New Zealand could barely measure up to Mali’s all-round play. The previous edition’s finalists, dominated possession and rarely provided any leeway to New Zealand. The closest New Zealand could come in the initial minutes was when Max Mata’s left-footed shot from outside the box was saved by the Ghana goalkeeper. After that, it was Mali who ran the show and it was just a matter of time before they scored.

In the 18th minute, Traore ran with the ball from midfield to the New Zealand penalty area.

He sent a perfect back pass to Jiddou, who was sprinting from the centre. And in the blink of an eye, Jiddou’s right footed shot on the run from outside the box crashed into the top right corner of the net. Mali could have doubled the lead in the 43rd minute had Lassana N’Diaye‘s left footed cross from the left not hit the bar. Mali had to contend with a 1-0 lead at half-time.

Within five minutes of resumption, Traore, who was tormenting the opposition on the left flank with numerous runs, struck the second goal. Camara released a quick cross from the right and Traore streamed in from left to slip the ball into the bottom right corner.

With a 2-0 lead, Mali were in the driver’s seat but Spragg led a brief New Zealand fightback when he anticipated Elijah Just’s cross to head in from close range.

The goal spiced up the contest with Mali, stunned, hitting back with a counter-attack. Lassana, assisted by Fode Konate on the right flank, slipped the ball past the goalkeeper to put it beyond New Zealand.

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