Mali controlled the pace of the game as they enjoyed the overwhelming share of possession in the first period. Although for all of their dominance, Mohamed Magassouba’s side was struggling to carve out clear-cut chances, with a Massadio Haïdara shot being the closest Mali came to finding an opener in the opening 45 minutes. Despite spending the majority of the first half without the ball, Gambia could have entered the break with a two-goal lead were it not for the woodwork. Musa Barrow saw his audacious long-range free-kick crash off the crossbar before the post denied Ablie Jallow’s dipping free-kick, ensuring the contest remained goalless for now.
Determined to claim a sixth successive victory, Mali made a couple of HT changes in a bid to unlock a stubborn Gambia defence. The signs were positive for ‘Les Aigles’ as they began the second period with purpose, as Yves Bissouma fired from the edge of the box, while HT substitute Adama Noss Traoré’s strike forced Modou Jobe into a smart stop.
Moments later, Gambia’s number one was called into action, tipping Amadou Haidara’s stinging free-kick over the crossbar. With less than 15 minutes left of the encounter, Mali were presented with a golden opportunity as a VAR review culminated in referee Samir Guezzaz pointing to the spot. Koné assumed responsibility to send Jobe the wrong way and register his second goal of the tournament.
Gambia were given a lifeline in the 89th minute as another VAR review resulted in the second penalty of the contest following Yves Bissouma’s handball. Bologna’s Musa Barrow stepped up to clinically dispatch the spot-kick to snatch a point for his country. While Mali will be left frustrated, both sides are in a strong position to progress to the AFCON knockout stages, having four points each after two matches.