Mali shock Ghana, Ser­bia beat Hun­gary in Un­der-20 World Cup

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY STEVE MCMOR­RAN

The knock­out rounds of the Un­der-20 World Cup opened with a ma­jor up­set Wed­nes­day as Mali shocked Ghana 3-0, while Ser­bia staved off near-cer­tain elim­i­na­tion to beat Hun­gary 2-1 in ex­tra time.

Bence Mervo put un­der­dog Hun­gary ahead with his fifth goal of the tour­na­ment in the 57th minute but Ser­bia, re­duced to 10 men, equal­ized though Ivan Sapon­jic in stop­page time and took the match with a heart-break­ing own goal by At­tila Tal­aber in the 118th minute. Tal­aber was in­con­solable when the fi­nal whis­tle sounded.

Mali de­fied all pre-match pre­dic­tions when it out­classed Ghana. It was the first time Ghana’s ‘Black Satel­lites’ had fallen be­fore the quar­ter­fi­nals, and they won the tour­na­ment in 2009.

The cruel na­ture of knock­out soc­cer was on show in the Ser­bia-Hun­gary clash at Dunedin. Ser­bia, which topped Group D and was heav­ily fa­vored to beat a Hun­gary team which squeaked into the knock­out stage via third place in Group E.

But Hun­gary stunned Ser­bia when Mervo swept a low cross into the net from close range in the sec­ond half. Hun­gary then de­fended in­trepidly, re­sist­ing waves of Ser­bia at­tacks as the clock ticked down.

When Ser­bia’s Mi­lan Ga­jic was sent off for a sec­ond yel­low card late, it ap­peared the fa­vorite’s hopes were at an end, but they con­jured an equal­izer just be­fore the fi­nal whis­tle when Sapon­jic raced for­ward to head the ball past goal­keeper Gy­orgy Szekely.

Ex­tra time was near an end and penal­ties beck­on­ing when Tal­aber at­tempted to clear a ball across the face of goal but suc­ceeded only in lob­bing it over the head of Szekely and into the net.

The goal sent Ser­bia into the quar­ter­fi­nals, where they will face the win­ner of Wed­nes­day’s later match be­tween the United States and Colom­bia.

Ear­lier, Mali took charge from the out­set against Ghana, who seemed out of sorts in cold, wet and windy con­di­tions in Welling­ton.

Af­ter sev­eral danger­ous raids, Mali opened the scor­ing in the 20th minute with a su­perb goal to Diadie Sa­massekou. Af­ter a flurry of passes on the edge of the area with Adama Traore, Sa­massekou threaded a low shot be­tween the near post and the out­stretched arm of goal­keeper Lawrence Ati.

De­fen­sive mid­fielder Souley­mane Diarra pressed for­ward con­tin­u­ally and forced two sharp saves from Ati. His pow­er­ful long-range strike was saved by the Ghana keeper and af­ter elud­ing the de­fend­ers he forced an­other des­per­ate save with a low shot at the near post.

Mali’s re­lent­less ap­proach paid off again when Dieudonne Gbakle scored in the 53rd minute and Aboubacar Doumbia put the re­sult be­yond doubt when he net­ted in the 81st.

Mali will now face the win­ner of Thurs­day’s glamor match be­tween Ger­many and Nige­ria in a quar­ter­fi­nal at Christchurch on Sun­day.

AP

Team­mates congratulate Diadie Sa­massekou of Mali, sec­ond right, af­ter scor­ing against Ghana dur­ing their U20 World Cup soc­cer match in Welling­ton, New Zealand, Wed­nes­day, June 10.

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