Mali stayed top of Group E and Tunisia clawed back into contention for a last-16 place after a 1-1 draw in a drab Africa Cup of Nations clash that petered out following a lively start on Saturday. Lassine Sinayoko gave Mali an early lead that was cancelled by Hamza Rafia midway through the first half in Korhogo. But the clash of two top 10-ranked teams in Africa provided little other excitement as Mali sought revenge for a 2022 World Cup play-off loss to Tunisia. Mali have four points, Namibia three, Tunisia one and South Africa none, with the two southern Africa nations meeting on Sunday.
Tunisia made several changes to the team beaten by Namibia with two veterans among those missing for the match in the most northern of the five Ivorian host cities.
An injury sustained early in the game against Namibia ruled out forward Taha Yassine Khenissi, 32, while adventurous left-back Ali Maaloul, 34, was dropped to the bench.
Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Yves Bissouma, the best known player in the Mali squad, was among their 12 substitutes after starting in the victory over South Africa four days ago.
After soaking up early Tunisian pressure before a near-capacity crowd in a 20,000-seat stadium built for the tournament, Mali went ahead on 10 minutes.
Slick passing down the left flank ended with Sinayoko bursting into the box and his low shot across goalkeeper Bechir Ben Said went into the net off the far post.
Rattled at falling behind, Tunisia gradually regained their composure and levelled after 20 minutes.
Ali Abdi crossed from the left and although Mali goalkeeper Djigui Diarra got a hand to a shot from Rafia, he could not stop the ball trickling into the net.
The tempo slowed after the equaliser and the only scoring chance before half-time came to nought when a Sekou Koita free-kick struck the defensive wall and was cleared.
Mali were first to threaten in the second half with Kamory Doumbia breaking from midfield before his shot flew narrowly wide.
Tunisia, whose lone Cup of Nations title came in 2004 when they hosted the competition and defeated Morocco in the final, visibly tired as the second half progressed.
Bissouma was among three substitutes introduced with seven minutes of regular time left as Mali sought the victory that would seal a last-16 place.
He had a chance deep in added time to snatch victory, but his free-kick flew across the goal and wide.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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