Playing to a plan African champion Mali outlasted New Zealand 3-1 to move into the knock-out round of the FIFA U-17 World Cup at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi on Thursday.
For the winners who led 1-0 at half time the goal scorers were Jiddou Salam (18 ), Traore Djemoussa (50) and Ndiaye Lassana (82). For the losers Charles Spragg (72) reduced the margin.
Mali finished the pool B assignment with six points, two wins and a loss. Prior to this encounter they had beaten Turkey 3-0 but lost to Paraguay 2-3 in the matches they played in Navi Mumbai.
New Zealand crashed out of the contention with one point which they had earned when they drew 1-1 with Turkey in their opener. The Kiwis then went down to Paraguay 2-4.
In a fast paced engrossing encounter the Africans dictated the proceedings most of the times. As the Kiwis beefed up their defence to protect their citadel.
The Kiwis however made few incisive counter moves which created ripples in the Mali defence. The African charge was spearheaded by Jiddou Salam and he was well supported by striker Ndiaye Lassane and Traore Djemoussa.
The Kiwis forward line looked better with the return of their captain Max Mata, who missed the match against Paraguay due to the red card he received in the first game. Mata with Just Eliah and Mathew Conroy tried to test the Mali defence but without much success.
The Africans were not only very fast but also very tougher than their rivals and many a times virtually bulldozed their way into the Kiwis defence.
Though the Kiwis crowded their defence, they could not hold back the marauding Africans who surged ahead in the 18th minute when Jiddou Salam intercepted a cross near box and send the ball home, giving no chance to Zac Jones (1-0).
Kiwis tried to retaliate and made couple of forays into their rival defence but the strikers turned out gto be poor marksmen. Mata was well marked while others found it hard to negotiate the tough defenders.
Mali kept the pressure on and narrowly missed hitting in the target when their hit the post close to the 30th-minute. Five minutes into the second session Mali increased the lead when Traore scored a superb goal. Cutting in from the left and swerving it onto the second post, the defender made it 2-0.
New Zealand tried to get back into the game and against the run of the play substitute Charles Spragg capitalizing on a defensive lapse sent the ball home leaving goalkeeper Koita Youuouf bewildered to reduced the lead (1-2) this happened in 72nd minute, but the African champions retaliated strongly by scoring the goal 10 minutes later, courtesy a strike from N’Diaye.
The African were the dominatrix, hitting the post and creating several full chances. The team is set to brighten up the tournament till the later stages.