PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Skipper Seydou Keita broke the deadlock in the 84th minute to give Mali a 1-0 win over Niger and become the first team to collect three points for a victory in the African Nations Cup on Sunday.
After three successive draws, two in Saturday's Group A matches, and a 2-2 finish between Ghana and Democratic Republic of Congo in the earlier Group B clash at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, this game seemed set to finish all square with the teams level and final whistle approaching.
But Keita, who had hit the bar with a thunderous shot in the 77th minute, reacted quickly when Niger goalkeeper Daouda Kassaly fumbled a high ball and the midfielder swept it home with his left foot.
Neither team had a shot on target in the first half, and although Niger, who have lost all four games they have played in their two tournament appearances, produced some neat passing play, Mali were the relieved, and deserved winners at the end. (Editing By Alison Wildey)