SEKONDI, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Frederic Kanoute scored with a
penalty as Mali laboured to a 1-0 victory against Benin in the
African Nations Cup on Monday.
The Sevilla striker was brought down by defender Alain
Gaspoz and converted the penalty on 49 minutes in a Group B game
that started 12 minutes later due to a power failure at
Sekondi's brand new stadium.
Mali's Eagles share the lead in Group B with Ivory Coast
after Salomon Kalou gave the Elephants a 1-0 win against Nigeria
earlier on Monday.
The Squirrels banked on solid defending to reach the
interval safely, while Mali enjoyed most of the possession but
failed to trouble their opponents, with Kanoute cut off from the
rest of his team up front.
However, Benin's hopes of earning their first point in their
second appearance in the tournament were squashed four minutes
into the second half with the penalty.
Benin coach Reinhard Fabisch added fresh blood to his front
line by replacing Jocelyn Ahoueya with Wassiou Oladipikpo eight
minutes from time and Stephane Sessegnon, who had come on for
Jonas Oketola, blew two clear chances from close range in the
Floodlights failed minutes before kickoff as dignitaries led
by Ghana vice-president Aliu Mahama were greeting the players.
The two teams completed their pre-match formalities in the
dark and the match finally got under way 12 minutes late when
the lights came back on.
'We were a bit stressed and it is normal in the first game
of such a competition,' Mali coach Jean-Francois Jodar told a
'However, we now have three points and that is what matters.
We are on the right path.'
Man-of-the-match Keita added: 'There was a lot of solidarity
in the team. We saw it when Benin were close to coming back
(into the match) in the last minutes.
'If you want to go all the way in the African Nations Cup,
solidarity is an essential thing.'
Benin coach Reinhard Fabisch said he was pleased with his
team's performance: 'We wanted to reach halftime with a good
result and 0-0 was a good result.
'Then, after the penalty, I had to take a defensive
midfielder out and add creativity in the midfield.'