BOUAKE, Ivory Coast, – Hosts Ivory Coast kept up their incredible escape act at the Africa Cup of Nations as they came from behind to beat Mali 2-1 in Saturday’s quarter-final, scoring a last-gasp goal in extra time to book a semi-final with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Oumar Diakite got a touch to Seko Fofana’s strike to win the game for the Ivorians, who played with 10 men for most of the match after Odilon Kossounou was sent off shortly before halftime.
Mali had taken a 71st-minute lead through Nene Dorgeles but the home team, roared on by the crowd at the Stade de la Paix, fought back and equalised through Simon Adingra in the 90th minute to force extra time.
Diakite then scored the winner before being sent off for a second booking by taking his shirt off in celebration. Mali’s Hamari Traore was also shown a red card at the final whistle.
The Ivorians had limped into the knockout stage as one of the four best third placed finishers, despite a 4-0 loss to tiny Equatorial Guinea, but then resurrected their hopes by edging holders Senegal on post-match penalties in the last 16.
But they will now fancy their chances of reaching next weekend’s final after another display of mental strength and determination, mixed in with some good fortune.
There were early scares for the capacity home crowd as Mali made a furious start while the Ivorians looked nervous and struggling with the burden of expectation.
In the sixth minute, Sikou Niakate’s close-range effort in a goalmouth scramble struck Kossounou on the hand but a lengthy VAR check showed Niakate had come from an offside position before striking the ball and Mali were not awarded a penalty.
But five minutes later Kossounou slipped as he chased Lassine Sinayoko to a ball over the top and knocked the Mali striker off his feet with the referee having no hesitation in awarding a spot kick.
Adama Traore hit the ball to the right corner but Yahia Fofana put a strong hand out to make a superb save.
Kossounou’s luck ran out two minutes before halftime when Jean Michael Seri lost possession to allow Sinayako to run at the Ivorian goal and the centre back fouled him, earning a second caution to leave the hosts down to 10 men.
Ivory Coast battled gamely with the one-man disadvantage after the break and there were few chances for Mali, but they still forced a breakthrough when substitute Dorgeles fired home a spectacular long-range shot.
Dorgeles, who cut inside from the wing before setting his sights and hitting a bullet-like effort from outside the Ivorian penalty area that goalkeeper Fofana stood and watched fly into the net.
The Ivorians pushed for an equaliser which they eventually found when Adingra struck in the 90th minute. The winger dribbled into the box before laying the ball for Fofana, whose shot was blocked by defender Boubacar Kouyate but the rebound fell for Adingra to hit in.
Sebastien Haller headed against the bar in extra time and the match was heading to penalties until the dying seconds when Mali cleared a setpiece to Fofana, who fired the ball at goal and it took a slight deflection off Diakite for a dramatic conclusion.