Bafana Bafana let their half-time lead slip, allowing Mali to score a second half equaliser as the teams drew their African Nations Championship (Chan) group A clash 1-1 at the Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Ibourahima Sidibe brought the teams level after the interval, after Bernard Parker had sent South Africa ahead through his 25th minute spot-kick.
A spirited Mali outfit fought back to grab the equaliser 10 minutes after half-time, as the teams shared the points, keeping Bafana top of group with four points.
The opening 10 minutes passed without incident, save for a penalty shout from Mali that was turned down by referee Souley Mohamadou. Shortly after, however, Lassana Diarra flashed his effort narrowly wide of Itumeleng Khune's upright, before Siphiwe Tshabalala's delicate effort went wide of the target, grazing the crossbar on the way.
The hosts found their rhythm and soon were paying regular visits into the opposition half, as Tshabalala, Bernard Parker and Hlompho Kekana came close. The decisive moment came on 23 minutes, when young Lindokuhle Mbatha – who made his international debut for Bafana against Mozambique four days prior – made a darting run into the area and was brought down on the edge, prompting Mohamadou to point to the spot.
Mohamadou waved away furious protests from the Malians, who felt Mbatha had been fouled outside of the box.
Nevertheless, Parker scored his second penalty in as many games to hand the South Africans the lead.
The home side were fortunate not to concede shortly before the interval, after the defence failed to deal with a loose ball inside the area, which led to Abdoulaye Sissoko thumping the upright with his driven effort from close-range.
Making his first appearance of the tournament, Edward Manqele forced a solid save from Mali goalkeeper Soumaila Diakite, who punched clear, as Bafana saw out the half unscathed.
After the break, South Africa upped the ante and dominated the early exchanges, but Mali soaked up the pressure and soon drew level, as Sidibe thundered home the equaliser.
Diarra got the final pass to the goal-scorer, after the visitors won the arial battle and sent Diarra through on goal, but a hefty touch steered the ball into Sidibe's path, and the midfielder made no mistake in hitting his effort first time, sailing into the back of the net.
Parker tested Diakite in the 70th, as the Kaizer Chiefs striker spun on the ball and got a muffled attempt away on goal, but was denied by the shot-stopper.
Mali piled on the pressure in the closing stages of the match, as Bafana proved wasteful in possession and gave away the ball in dangerous positions as the clock ran down. – Sapa