Mali colts lose match, win hearts

Tiki-taka was in full flow as European champions Spain staved off a battling Mali to emerge 3-1 winners in a rip-roaring, action-packed semi-final contest to enter the summit clash of the U-17 World Cup at the DY Patil Stadium, here on Wednesday.

By PTI
  • Published 26.10.17
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Spain players celebrate a goal on Saturday. (Getty Images)

Navi Mumbai: Tiki-taka was in full flow as European champions Spain staved off a battling Mali to emerge 3-1 winners in a rip-roaring, action-packed semi-final contest to enter the summit clash of the U-17 World Cup at the DY Patil Stadium, here on Wednesday.

Spain scored twice in the first half, both the goals coming from their ebullient striker Abel Ruiz, and added one more through a headed goal by Ferran Torres to take a commanding 3-0 lead.

Mali pulled one back in the 74th minute through their top goal-getter Lassana N'Diaye.

Spain thus entered the U-17 World Cup final for the fourth time, their first since 2007. They will face England in the all-important match at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Saturday. Mali would consider themselves unlucky for not being awarded a goal. But they definitely won the hearts.

When Mali were trailing 0-2, a 40-yard pile-driver by Cheick Omar Doucoure flew past Spanish goalie Fernandez and hit the underside of the cross bar and bounced on the ground before coming back into play which was headed out.

But the ball seemed to have bounced inside the goal before rebounding into play, with the assistant referee not signalling it in.

Even as play continued the Mali bench rose as a whole to protest and after continuous shouting caught the attention of referee Ryuji Sato of Japan who, after remonstrating with the Mali bench, showed the yellow card to one of the support staff members for repeated back-chatting.

Spain were the dominant force in the entire first-half as they took a handy two-goal lead with their sharp-shooter Ruiz finding the net on both occasions. The first one from the penalty spot in the 19th minute and the second with an on-the-run effort in the 45th minute.

Ruiz and Cesar Gelabert combined beautifully with promptings from the mid-field to tear apart the porous Mali defence to shreds.

Spain clearly had the better share of the exchanges too and could have been 4-0 up but for an early brilliant save by Mali custodian Youssouf Koita and then a missed chance by Ruiz, who took his tally to six goals in the tournament.

After Koita blocked a stiff left-footed volley by Sergio Gomez in the second minute, Gelabert side-stepped a couple of defenders only to shoot wide with his left foot.

Mali had their best chance of the first half in the eighth minute when their top goal getter Lassana got a faint touch to the ball after being chased in his forward thrust by Spain's Hugo Guillamon, but the ball kissed the side netting.

Then came the opening goal of the match when Gelabert was brought down, as he moved into the box, by Mali defender Abdoulaye Diaby. Ruiz sent Koita the wrong way from the spot- kick to provide the European U-17 champions a 1-0 lead.