Mali profited from quick starts to each half as an own goal from Edmond Tapsoba and a strike by Lassine Sinayoko secured a 2-1 victory over Burkina Faso in an Africa Cup of Nations last-16 clash at the Stade Amadou Gon Coulibaly in Korhogo on Tuesday.
Mali scored within three minutes at the start of the match as the unfortunate Tapsoba turned the ball into his own net, and caught the Burkinabe cold again when they added a second two minutes after the break as Sinayoko netted his third goal of the tournament.
Burkina Faso pulled a goal back when Bertrand Traore slotted a penalty just before the hour-mark, but could not force an equaliser against a Mali side with a well-deserved reputation for a miserly defence, one of the reasons why they are among the tournament favourites.
Mali are seeking their first continental title and next face hosts Ivory Coast in a quarter-final that will be played in Bouake on Saturday.
No team has played more games, 55, at the Cup of Nations without lifting the trophy than Mali and Tuesday’s encounter was perhaps another indicator of why they can change that this year.
They are a difficult side to break down with explosive forwards, and while the scoreline may not have been emphatic, they were comfortable winners in the end.
Mali hit the front inside three minutes when Amadou Haidara’s powerful header rebounded off the post and as Burkina Faso defender Tapsoba tried to clear, he only succeeded in steering the ball into his own net.
If Mali’s start to the first half was fast, their opening to the second period was even quicker as they doubled the score inside two minutes of the kickoff.
Sinayoko was played into acres of space on the right-hand side of the box by Hamari Traore and with time to pick his spot, he coolly slipped the ball under goalkeeper Herve Koffi.
Burkina Faso had the chance to halve the deficit when the ball struck the outstretched arm of Mali defender Kiki Kouyate and Libyan referee Ibrahim Mutaz awarded the spot-kick following a Video Assistant Referee review. Traore made no mistake from 12-yards.
They pushed forward looking for an equaliser and had the ball in the back of the net through Issoufou Dayo, but he was well-offside and they could not create much of substance in the closing minutes.