Bafana Bafana and Mali played to a scintillating 1-1 draw in the second Group A match of the Chan tournament at Cape Town stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
Playing in blazing heat, the home side opened the score-sheet in the first half through a penalty by Bernard Parker before the West Africans equalised with a cracking goal midway through the second half.
As expected, caution dominated the opening stanza of this game but it was Mali that had a sniff of goal first. Abdoulaye Sessoko broke free in the 9th minute but failed to connect cleanly after making contact with Itumeleng Khune. The West Africans vociferously appealed for a penalty claiming Khune had impeded the striker when he was heading for the goal but the referee awarded a corner kick.
From the resultant kick, Lassana Diarra's snap shot went agonisingly wide as Bafana breathed a sigh of relief.
It was a wake-up call Bafana needed to get out of their slumber and moments later manufactured two breaks which the Mali defence easily dealt with.
In the 18th minute, Lindokuhle Mbatha waltzed his way past Mali defence but his tame shot was easily smothered by Soumaila Diakite in goals for the West Africans.
The livewire Mbatha was then brought down inside the box after making another darting run on the right flank and Bernard Parker made no mistake from the spot to give Bafana a good lead.
Mali's long throw ins in the box were proving difficult to deal with and in the 29th minute, Khune had to tip over the bar one of those attempts.
Mbatha again came into the picture in the 36th minute when he connected a Siphiwe Tshabalala cross but Mahamadou Traore cleared from the line. Moments later Tshabalala found himself into the referee's book for what the official considered a crude tackle.
Then a mix-up in the Bafana defence gifted Abdoulaye Sissoko with an open opportunity in the 41st minute but his powerful shot cannoned off the upright.
In the 44th minute, Edward Manqele capitalised on a slip up by Mali central defender Ousmane Keita but his powerful shot was saved by Diakite. The opportunity was quickly followed up by what would have been a fluke goal of the tournament following Khune's long goal kick which had to be tipped over the bar by Diakite. Immediately the referee blew for half-time.
In the second half, Mali threw many bodies upfront and duly equalised in the 54th minute through overlapping Ibourahima Sidibe whose stinging shot gave Khune no chance after another mix up in the Bafana defence.
Mali's imposing strikers always posed danger whenever they went into the attack and Adama Traore's swerving shot had the beating of Khune in the 60th minute.
Urged on by a vociferous crowd, Bafana Bafana launched a sweeping counter attack involving Tshabalala and Parker which prised open the Mali defence but Diakite was equal to the task.
Defender Buhle Mkhwanazi then mistimed his shot inside the box as Bafana upped the tempo. However, Mali always looked dangerous on counter-attacks and on numerous occasions, stretched the Bafana defence.
South Africa: Itumeleng Khune, Thato Mokeke, Thabo Nthethe, Vuyo Mere, Buhle Mkhwanazi, Hlompho Kekana, siphiwe Tshabalala, Matthew Pattison, Lindokuhle Mbatha, Edward Manqele, Bernard Parker
Mali: Cheick Bathily (gk), 2. Souleymane Konate, 3. Ibourahima Sidibe, 4. Ousmane Keita, 6. Mahamadou Traore, 7. Abdoulaye Sessoko, 8. Cheick Doumbia, 9. Lassana Diarra, 11. Adama Traore, 13. Issaka Samake, 16. Soumaila Diakite (gk), Yaya Samake